December 14, 2011
Facebook on Tuesday launched an initiative that gives users who have expressed suicidal thoughts the option to connect directly with a crisis counselor via Facebook chat.
“One of the big goals here is to get the person in distress into the right help as soon as possible,” Fred Wolens, Facebook public policy manager, told the Associated Press.
Facebook doesn’t troll the site in search of those who might be suicidal; with 800 million users who generate billions of posts, Facebook’s algorithm could easily misinterpret comments. Instead, the new initiative is dependent on people speaking up when they feel a friend might be in danger.
If a person spots a troubling post, they must click the settings button next to the comment and select “report.” Facebook will then email the individual with the number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or a link to start chatting confidentially with a counselor.
“The only people who will have a really good idea of what’s going on is your friends so we’re encouraging them to speak up and giving them an easy and quick way to get help,” Wolens added.
If someone searches “suicide” on Google or Yahoo, they will be provided with the number for the Lifeline. In the past, Facebook would direct users who it felt were expressing suicidal thoughts to the same channel via email.