Help is just a few clicks away on Facebook for people expressing suicidal thoughts.The social networking site launched a new feature Tuesday that enables users to connect with a counselor through a confidential chat session triggered after a friend reports distressing content.
The new tool has several benefits, experts say, in the quest to reduce the number of nearly 100 Americans who commit suicide every day.First, it brings quick intervention at times when it can be of most help. Second, it enables troubled people to start a chat over an instant messaging system that many find more comfortable than speaking on the phone with a counselor.
“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, associate project director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The service is the latest tool from Facebook aimed at improving safety on its site, which has more than 800 million users. This year, it announced changes to how users report bullying, offensive content and fake profiles.
“One of the big goals here is to get the person in distress into the right help as soon as possible,” saidFred Wolens, Facebook’s public policy manager.In recent years, distressed people have posted their final words on Facebook.
In one high-profile case in September 2010, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate allegedly used a webcam to spy on his intimate encounter with another man.
Facebook, however, has not created any software that searches the site for suicidal expressions. It would be far too difficult with so many users and so many comments that could be misinterpreted by a computer algorithm, Wolens said.
“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,” he said.
The Lifeline currently responds to dozens of users on Facebook each day. Crisis center workers will be available 24 hours a day to respond to users selecting the chat option.
Source: The News Daily
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