Facebook has teamed up with a charity called, the Samaritans to bring its Suicide Prevention tool to the UK.
It’s the same tool that was launch in the US a little over a year ago, and it gives users the opportunity to report content they feel might be indicative of someone struggling with suicidal thoughts.
While Facebook itself is not involved in seeking out suicide-related posts, it has a team in place ready to handle any content that is reported. The team is able to analyze and prioritize cases, and reach out to individuals to see what sort of support can be offered — this might be as simple as having a chat, or it could involve a referral to specialist organizations.
Relying on users to report worrying content posted by the people they follow or are friends with on the social network takes the pressure off Facebook, but ensures that the social network is still seen to be doing something. Users are encouraged to use the Suicide Prevention tool to report content they are concerned about, but in the case of explicit talk about suicide, the advice is to get in touch with the emergency services.
Help options are sent to those which the team assesses as struggling to cope.
For example they could be urged to contact Samaritans, or ask if they want to connect with a friend.
A message appears the next time they log in, saying: “Hi, a friend thinks you might be going through something difficult and asked us to look at your recent post.”
They also have the option of ignoring offers of support altogether.
Julie de Bailliencourt, safety policy manager for Facebook, said: “Keeping the Facebook community safe is our most important responsibility.
“We worked with organisations including Samaritans to develop these tools, and one of the first things they told us was how much connecting with people who care can help those who are struggling to cope – whether offline or online.
“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.”
Every part of the process is kept anonymous in a bid to encourage people on both sides to take advantage of it. As well as providing tips and support for those considering suicide, Facebook also recognizes that it can be difficult for those finding such content in their news feeds. With this in mind, Facebook says it will be providing ” new resources and support to the person who flagged the troubling post, including options for them to call or message their distressed friend letting them know they care, or reaching out to another friend or a trained volunteer for support”.