Suicide Prevention via Facebook

How often do you check Facebook? Do you post updates letting friends know how you're feeling, what you're doing, and of course, what you're eating? We see so much shared on Facebook every day. Some interesting articles and opinions, and some of it, as I'm sure you can relate to, is not as interesting or relevant to you. Facebook has changed a lot since it's early days, and one recent change is of particular interest to us at L&L Consulting. The giant social media platform has recently announced that Facebook will now be using the platform to focus on suicide prevention.

The New York Times recently wrote an article about this new feature of Facebook. In the article the authors explain how this feature will work:

"Facebook’s new suicide prevention tools start with a drop-down menu that lets people report posts, a feature that was previously available only to some English-speaking users. People across the world can now flag a message as one that could raise concern about suicide or self-harm; those posts will then come to the attention of Facebook’s global community operations team, a group of hundreds of people around the world who monitor flagged posts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Posts flagged as potential self-harm notes are to be expedited and reviewed more quickly by the team members, who also examine posts that Facebook users have reported as objectionable. Community operations team members who evaluate potentially suicidal content are given special training, Facebook said.

The person reporting a suicide note is given a menu of options, including the ability to send a Facebook message directly to the friend in distress or to a mutual friend to coordinate help. Facebook will provide a suggested text message to send, or users can fill in their own words." 

A screenshot of Facebook's suicide prevention efforts. Image credit: The New York Times

A screenshot of Facebook's suicide prevention efforts. Image credit: The New York Times

We're reflecting on this feature of Facebook and have come up with a few positives and negative thoughts about it:

POSITIVES

  • Increase access to resources for those who may not know where to go
  • Provide tools to friends who want to support loved ones but don't know how
  • Potential to reduce suicide rates
  • Reduce stigma associated with mental health and suicide and provide a platform for discussing this sensitive topic globally
  • Increase awareness of red flags for suicide risk that can be applied in settings other than on Facebook
  • May give people a way to reach out for help that didn't exist before

NEGATIVES

  • Users may feel that their posts are being monitored and may be reluctant to post or share anything
  • The feature may interpret signals incorrectly either by targeting those who are not at risk, or by missing those who are at risk and trying to take advantage of the tool
  • Many people have "Facebook friends" who they don't consider real friends. This might impact whether or not they report a concerning post and some people might not get reported

Some questions we have for Facebook:

  • What is the special training that the community operations team members are given?
  • Are reported individuals referred to healthcare professionals?
  • How are you preparing your community operations team to cope with compassion fatigue?  
  • Where do the resource lists come from? How easy is it to access help quickly? 
  • Is there a follow up process once a report is made? Does Facebook monitor the individuals profile or check in periodically? 

We are always happy to hear of initiatives that increase conversation about mental health but are aware of the sensitive nature of suicide and the importance of how it is handled. 

What is your reaction to this new Facebook feature? Can you think of any other positives, negatives or questions? If you saw a friend or colleague posting comments that concerned you, would you take advantage of Facebook's new suicide prevention features? Let us know in the comments below!

Read the original article here.

Cover image originally from www.thenextweb.com