Facebook’s suicide-prevention tool improved

Facebook has announced improvements to its suicide prevention tool, ahead of Sunday’s World Suicide Prevention Day.

Developed with the support of the Samaritans, the tool is available to Facebook’s 2.1 million Irish users.

They will now have the option to flag content of concern posted by friends.

“Social media is a tool that some people use to communicate their feelings when life is tough and they’re feeling overwhelmed,” said Samaritans Ireland executive director Deirdre Toner.

“Research shows that social media feeds can be effective indicators of what happens in real life, so those who threaten suicide online can often go on to make an attempt at taking their own life. Therefore, messages that cause concern should not be ignored.”

Facebook’s safety policy manager Julie de Bailliencourt noted: “People use Facebook to connect with friends and family, and that’s why we’re evolving the support, resources and advice available to people who are in distress and their concerned friends and family members.”

The social media network said it encourages all users to report direct threats of suicide to their local emergency services immediately.

However, the improved suicide prevention tool offers a chance for users to reach out to friends who may be struggling and direct them towards support services such as the Samaritans.

The tool works by allowing a user to flag any troubling content posted by a friend.

According to Facebook, its worldwide teams will review the highlighted content, and help options and resources are sent to those suspected of being in distress.

Ms Toner said such teams are well trained by many different organisations to look for phrases and indicators that signal a user being in distress.

The update to the tool includes the option of reaching out to a friend directly, as well as trained volunteers at the Samaritans.

The tool will now also offer help and support for the person who originally flags the troubling content, including the option to also reach out to a friend or trained volunteer for support.

Ms Toner says that the improvement to the tool was important because it was crucial to get the right information about suicide, instead of pre-conceived notions.

Reported content is confidential and the person who reports a troubling post will not be known to the user who posted it.

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