Facebook unveils suicide prevention feature


by Diana Zoga


Posted on December 13, 2011 at 8:06 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 14 at 8:50 PM

(KMOV) -- Tuesday, Facebook rolled out a new feature that allows users to report suicidal content and connect a Facebook "friend" with a counselor.

The program allows users to report a suicidal thought or status update on someone's page. 

Users click on the link next to the comment to report the content to Facebook.  Facebook says it will send an email with an invitation to instant chat with a counselor from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

You can also report suicidal content here:  www.facebook.com/help/contact.php

"If you can get someone to immediately come in and interact, it can diffuse the situation, it can calm the kid down, let them take a step back and they won't react.   They'll stop and think," said Dr. Erin Shannon, a clinical psychologist at Holistic Psychology and Energy Medicine.  Shannon is also involved with the Megan Meier Foundation.

"I think that what is important is that Facebook puts the right people in that secondary line of defense against this."

Dr. Shannon says it's possible some people will abuse the feature or report extraneous content, but in some cases, she says quick intervention may save lives.

"It can make all the difference in the world.  Can it save lives?  Yeah, I definitely think it can.  I really do," said Dr. Shannon.

Facebook says the new chat function is already working.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24.  Approximately 4400 young lives are lost each year.

In 2008, there were 35,045 reported suicides of adults in the U.S, according to the CDC.

Learn more about the warning signs here:  www.suicidology.org/web/guest/stats-and-tools/warning-signs

Dr. Shannon says sometimes Facebook users will have to look at the warning signs, but also trust their instincts in determining whether someone may need help.

"I think it is helpful for that third party, watching something and going: I don't really like the way this is sounding," said Dr. Shannon.

"This is an excellent resource to say could somebody check this out?  I'm not an expert here."