February 26, 2015 2:47 pm

Facebook to roll out new tools for suicide prevention

Facebook is rolling out new tools to support users who may use the social media site to express thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

Joerg Koch / The Canadian Press
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TORONTO – Facebook is launching new tools to support users who may use the social media site to express thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Starting this week, the social network will begin rolling out a new feature that will allow users to flag posts where a friend has expressed worrisome thoughts.

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Moving forward, when concerned users click the “Report Post” button – by clicking on the arrow on the top right hand side of a post – Facebook will send a notification to the user who made the post.

When that person logs in next they will receive a notification offering them the option to get in touch with the person who flagged the post, another friend, or contact information for a suicide helpline.

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Facebook will have teams working around the clock to review any reports that do come in and prioritize the most serious posts, according to a blog post announcing the changes.

“Besides encouraging [the user] to connect with a mental health expert at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, we now also give them the option of reaching out to a friend, and provide tips and advice on how they can work through these feelings,” reads the blog post.

“We’re also 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 professional at a suicide hotline for support.”

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But, Facebook stresses that these tools are not meant to replace emergency services.

“If someone on Facebook sees a direct threat of suicide, we ask that they contact their local emergency services immediately,” reads the blog post.

Facebook partnered with multiple mental health organizations in the U.S. for the program, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Save.org and Now Matters Now.

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The changes will begin rolling out to U.S. users this week and will eventually roll out to other countries. It’s not yet clear when Canadian users will see the changes.

In 2011, Facebook introduced a tool that allowed users to report suicidal content – however, it involved a lengthy process of finding the help page, taking a screenshot of the post and submitting contact information to the social network.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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