Facebook has enabled users to report suicidal content for some time now, but as of this week the social network will increase its efforts at suicide prevention by partnering with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Facebook has 800 million users and thousands of them have reported that posts from their friends contain references to “self-harm” or “suicidal content.” But as the site has grown and a handful of suicides seem to have been foreshadowed by status updates, Facebook is taking things a step further.

From CBS News:

When reports like these come through, Facebook’s safety team reviews the content and sends them to Lifeline. Facebook sends an email to the user that’s been reported, which includes Lifeline’s phone number and a link to start a confidential chat session. After that, it’s up to the recipient to respond. Facebook also sends whoever filed the report and email to let them know the site has responded. The social network realizes the system isn’t full proof for emergencies, so they encourage you to call law enforcement if the harmful behavior appears imminent.

The new service will also allow users to report suicidal behavior even if it’s not connected to a post on the site, 24 hours a day. However, like anything else communicated through Facebook, any information contained within this service will not be protected by medical privacy laws and is ultimately public.

Is Facebook taking a step in the right direction? Or is preventing suicide through social networking a lost cause?

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  • I commend what Facebook is doing. I spend most of my time on Twitter and some of the things people reveal about themselves can be disturbing. Many people don’t have someone to talk to so they reveal their innermost thoughts to anyone who will listen.

  • Me27

    I’m not sure if this is really a solution. I think it’s a good idea that they are offering counseling if a person requests it. Sometimes it a good thing to have someone you can talk freelly to without being judged.

    However, if i ever saw a status update from a friend that seemed to be a potential cry for help, my initial reaction would be to call that person to see what’s going on; not report them to facebook…

  • Rebecca

    I can respect Facebook’s involvement here. Their course of action says that they acknowledge the depth of information and power that their service provides to and for their users, and are taking steps to properly involve and engage themselves within what seems to be a trending issue amongst some of their subscribers.

    I agree with Me2, though. If I saw a status update that seemed like a cry for help, I would first pick up the phone and make a call before notifying Facebook. But I have to also remember, that my reaction is from a personal/individual position. The steps that Facebook has taken to involve themselves is commendable relative to their position as a BUSINESS. Look at it this way, if they did nothing at all, we’d all be crying foul and charging them with exploitation or negligence.

    At the end of the day, it’s still a respectable [first] step forward.

  • CD86

    Lost cause. Facebook has become so rife with people begging for attention, it would be hard to know who is actually in need of help. I see people type FML (Fuck my life) or type about all of their problems in status updates on Facebook. They aren’t asking for help, they are asking for people to pay attention to them because it makes them feel important.

  • African Mami

    I just see a new way for Facebook to capitalize and earn more revenue! Whatev! That is one website whose sincerity is VERY questionable.