Facebook To Prevent Suicides Using Crisis Counselor ‘Chat’ Tool

Facebook has just launched a new initiative which will help users with suicidal thoughts to get instant access to crisis counsellors via its instant messenger service.

Now the networking site is making it easier for people who express suicidal thoughts online to get help. Photo: Franco Bouly/Flickr

On Tuesday, Facebook launched a new preventing suicide tool that instantly connects with a crisis counselor from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline who is able to provide some help people who are in distress.

“One of the big goals here is to get the person in distress into the right help as soon as possible,” Fred Wolens, public policy manager at Facebook, told reporters.

The initiative is the first time people can directly talk to a counselor via the site. Before the networking site was just offering some telephone numbers or the email addresses of organizations people can ask experts some pieces of advice.

“We’ve heard from many people who say they want to talk to someone but don’t want to call. Instant message is perfect for that,” said Lidia Bernik, director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The new tool is supposed to reduce the number of about 100 Americans who commit suicide every day.

“This was a natural progression from something we’ve been working on for a long time,” Wolens added.

Besides, users consult with suicide representatives clicking on the Help Center’s site or search for suicide reporting forms. They can also use reporting links on the site.

The new suicide preventing tool will be available for US and Canada’s Facebook lovers. But it is still unclear whether the service will be rolled out in the UK.

The new Facebook tool can be also useful for people who want to prevent their friends from committing suicide. Now, seeing a suicidal post on a page, friends can report about it by clicking on a link next to the comment.

A suicide representative will send an email to the person and try to persuade him to call hotline service or click the link for a confidential instant chat 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,” said Wolens.

The decision to create something connected with preventing from suicide has come up after some cases when distressed people have posted their final letters on Facebook.

In September 2010, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate used a webcam to spy on his intimate encounter with another man.

Clementi had written on his wall on Facebook: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”

Last month a man posted a suicide note on Facebook and then he killed his wife, in-laws and himself.

In July one potential suicide was stopped after his friend called to the police and reported that he has seen a strange post on the page of his friend. Police met with the man, who was admitted to a hospital.

Every day about 100 American commit suicide, and 36,035 a year, said to U.S Surgeon General Regina Benjamin’s office.

“We have effective treatments to help suicidal individuals regain hope and a desire to live and we know how powerful personal connections and support can be,” Benjamin said. “Facebook and the Lifeline are to be commended for addressing one of this nation’s most tragic public health problems.”

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline now tries to help dozens of users on Facebook each day. Crisis center works 24 hours a day in order to save every single life. [Via USA Today and The Telegraph]

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