By Brianne Moore
Media attention of suicides attributed to cyberbullying has turned a spotlight on popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Now Facebook is stepping up in the fight to prevent these tragedies by introducing a new feature that allows users in the U.S. and Canada to report any suicidal comments posted by friends. Clicking a “Report Suicidal Comment” link or using the report links throughout the site will prompt an immediate e-mail from Facebook to the person who posted the suicidal comment, urging them to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Users can call the Lifeline or engage in a confidential online chat with a crisis worker.
Workers from two centers in the Lifeline network will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to Facebook users. The Lifeline, which began partnering with Facebook back in 2006 to assist at-risk users, already responds to dozens of people every day who express suicidal thoughts on Facebook. The Lifeline is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and provides free and confidential crisis counseling to anyone in need and has answered more than 3 million calls since its launch in 2005. The network is currently comprised of 152 local crisis centers.
According to Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, MD, MBA, more than 36,000 Americans die each year by suicide. “These deaths are even more tragic because they are preventable,” Benjamin said in an official release. “We have effective treatments to help suicidal individuals regain hope and a desire to live and we know how powerful personal connections and support can be. Therefore we as a nation must do everything we can to reach out to those at risk and provide them the help and hope needed to survive and return to productive lives.”