Facebook Launches Initiative to Help Suicidal Individuals

A new Facebook initiative attempts to prevent more suicides by allowing users to report comments under a new “Report Suicidal Content” link. The person who posted the concerning comment will immediately receive an e-mail from Facebook that encourages them to call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or to click on a chat session with a crisis counselor.

The Lifeline, which is funded by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), has answered more than 3 million calls since its inception in 2005. Before this initiative began, the Lifeline was responding to dozens of individuals every day who had expressed suicidal thoughts on Facebook, so this new service is simply an extension of that work. As many suicidal individuals do not want to pick up the phone, this online chat service allows them another way to get the help they need and enables friends to intervene immediately and help identify those who may be in urgent need of help.

Approximately 36,000 individuals commit suicide in the U.S. every year – twice the number of murders in the country. Do you think this initiative will help to lower that number in the coming years?

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Signs of Depression on Facebook?

A new study from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health suggests that Facebook may be a potential tool in finding individuals who are suffering from depression. However, study authors say that it should not be used as a substitute for clinical screening.

Researchers analyzed the Facebook profiles of 200 college sophomores and juniors. Twenty-five percent of the students exhibited one or more symptoms of depression through their online activities, whether those were references to decreased interest or pleasure in activities, a change in appetite, sleep problems, loss of energy, or feelings of guilt or worthlessness. Only 2.5 percent of the profiles displayed enough information to warrant screening for depression.

One of the most interesting findings? Students who complained of depression symptoms often had others in their social networks reach out to help them.