Facebook Suicide Help Service
Facebook announced this week that they would be providing a new way for US or Canadian members of the site to find help for friends that they suspect may be thinking of ending their lives.
It works like this, you see a comment or status update that a friend has made that causes you concern. You then report the status by flagging it, (as you would an abusive or spam message) and selecting a suicidal option from the drop down bar.
The person whose comment you reported will immediately be sent an email with a link to start a live chat session with a crisis counselor from “Lifeline” and a message urging them to seek help.
The service seems to have come into existence partially as a response to the growing number of cyber bullying suicides that are occurring, often related to Facebook.
I have mixed feelings about the service. While any attempt to provide help to those that may be feeling deeply depressed or suicidal is going to be beneficial, there are a number of potential problems that could arise from this particular approach.
First of all, people sometimes say things without particularly considering the impact that their words could have. If a Facebook user having a bad day says: ” If I have to go to work again tomorrow I’ll kill myself.” Is that enough cause for alarm? If you did flag it and the person wasn’t actually expressing genuine suicidal thoughts then the email they received may make them feel uncomfortable to say the least, and they would probably feel as if their privacy had been slightly invaded.
The biggest concern for me is the idea that it is up to you to report and respond to a friend’s possible cry for help. It’s a lot of pressure for the average Facebook user to suddenly have placed upon them.
I have a number of friends on my Facebook list that I honestly don’t know very well. I would not feel confident attempting to dissect their status updates for signs of depression. But what if I were the only one online at the time they wrote that status? What If I chose not to act and they unfortunately chose to take their own life? I would then be forced to carry the burden of my decision for the rest of my life.
Pretty heavy stuff for a social networking site, their has been no mention of rolling out a similar service to Australia just yet. So I guess we will just have to wait and see how the service works for America and Canada.
If you or someone you know are feeling suicidal you should contact
Lifeline: Phone: 13 11 14 Website: http://www.lifeline.org.au/