Throwing out a lifeline to prevent suicide

People can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline directly from Facebook. 

Mar 3, 2020, 10:00 am*



Austin Powell

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline just received a social-media upgrade.

Earlier today, the organization announced a new partnership with Facebook that will allow users of the 800-million-plus social network to have confidential chat sessions with crisis workers.

“Preventing suicide is everyone’s business,” said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin in an official Facebook post. “We don’t have a life to lose in this world. We must confront suicide and suicidal thoughts openly and honestly, and use every opportunity to make a difference by breaking the silence and suffering.”

Suicide has been a prevalent concern for social networks since the tragic loss of Megan Meier, a teen who was bullied on Myspace. Nearly 100 Americans commit suicide every day, and more than 8 million people over the age of 18 have had serious thoughts about suicide, according to Benjamin.

“I’ve lost two family members to suicide in my lifetime and am so thankful to see things like this!” responded Catrina Thomas to the announcement.

In September, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) issued the “Lifeline Facebook Application Challenge,” a crowd-sourced effort that sought to develop an app to help friends and family members check on each other in cases of an emergency.

Last month, released an app that helped users report suicide threats through Facebook, as noted by Mashable.

This new service, however, is by far Facebook’s most proactive measure to date, an initiative that will enable immediate crisis intervention.

Instead of relying on a computer algorithm where sentiment and sarcasm could be misinterpreted, the service—currently available only to those in the United States and Canada—enables Facebook users to report comments through the “Report Suicidal Content” link. That user will then  “receive an e-mail from Facebook encouraging him or her to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) or to click on a link to begin a confidential chat session,” according to Facebook.

The announcement was “Liked” across the board by Facebook users and seen as a tool that will likely save countless live. For some, however, the initiative unfortunately didn’t come soon enough.

“Sure wish this was available when my daughter took her life,” wrote user Terri Ludewick. “She was on Facebook posting the night she died.”

Photo by ntr23

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*First Published: Dec 13, 2011, 5:53 pm