Facebook introduces Suicide Prevention tool to help people who might be at risk

The feature has been built in partnership with the Samaritans, and allows a team of supporters to look through potentially concerning posts

Andrew Griffin
Friday 19 February 2016 17:33 GMT
The social media site has become embroiled in another censorship row
The social media site has become embroiled in another censorship row (AFP/Getty Images)

Facebook has launched a new tool to help people who might be at risk of harming themselves.

The site’s Suicide Prevention tool, which has already been rolled out in some parts of the world, is built to help people report friends that they think might be at risk. It can then provide resources and support for people, as well as their friends and family.

The site still encourages people who see explicit threats to call the emergency services. But the tool is intended for flagging people who might be at posting troubling content.

To use the tool, friends flag up a person that they are worried about. That message will then go through a system, developed in partnership with Samaritans, that will allow a team to assess the best ways to proceed.

If that happens, the user will see a message the next time they log in, telling them that “a friend thinks you might be going through something difficult and asked us to look at your recent post”.

Offers of help might include a message telling people to talk to Samaritans or that it might be a good idea to speak to a friend.

Facebook’s safety policy manager said that the system had been built to encourage people to connect with other people.

“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,” said Julie de Bailliencourt.

All of those offers of support can be dismissed if a person wants to avoid them.

The app follows a similar tool that was released in 2014, which allowed people to report tweets that worried them. That was later stopped amid fears it could be used to “troll” vulnerable people.

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