Facebook is rolling out a new tool to help users at risk of suicide.
Users of the social network will be able to report their friend’s posts if they contain worrying language or thoughts, and Facebook will give them an option to send a message of personal support.
The new tool will only be available in the U.S., and Facebook hasn’t announced yet whether they plan on bringing it to Canada.
The U.S. version of the tool has been designed with the help of mental health organizations, including National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Now Matters Now.
Dr. Su-Ting Teo, the director of student health and wellness at Ryerson, says it’s a good first step for the company in thinking about suicide prevention.
“People who feel down and suicidal often feel very isolated,” Teo says. “The more ways we have to connect and reach out to each other, the better.”
Currently, Canadians who are concerned about their Facebook friends have the option to report suicidal content, but the process is longer and more complicated.
Searching “suicide” in Facebook’s “help” section offers varying results, including hotline numbers and tips to “go for a walk” or “take a bubble bath” to help users work through their feelings.
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The new reporting tool will streamline this process and make it much more accessible. To weed out any abuse of the system, all reports will be reviewed by a third party before any messages are sent to the person.
Teo says when it comes to suicide prevention, Facebook is one of many options. “There isn’t any one option that’s better than the other. In some situations, it’s easier to go through Facebook.”
For students concerned that they or their friends are at risk of self-harm, Ryerson’s Centre for Development and Counselling has a list of resources on their website, and offers free individual counselling.