Facebook looks to prevent suicides with technology

Before now, Facebook relied heavily on a team of on-call engineers to parse through real-time data about national disasters and incidents such as terrorist attacks coming in from third-party partners. Ultimately, these staffers would serve up manual Safety Check prompts encouraging people to use the feature.

Starting this week, Facebook is testing a Safety Check invite tool that allows people in affected areas to ask friends and family members to check in and mark themselves as “safe.”
Before now, Facebook relied heavily on a team of on-call engineers to parse through real-time data about national disasters and incidents such as terrorist attacks coming in from third-party partners. Ultimately, these staffers would serve up manual Safety Check prompts encouraging people to use the feature. Starting this week, Facebook is testing a Safety Check invite tool that allows people in affected areas to ask friends and family members to check in and mark themselves as “safe.”

Facebook has introduced updated tools and educational resources to help support people in India who may be struggling with self-injury or may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. Developed in collaboration with mental health organizations and with input from people who have personal experience with self-injury and suicide, these tools first launched in the US with the help of Forefront, Lifeline, and Save.org. Today, Facebook rolled these tools out in India in collaboration with local partners (AASRA and The Live Love Laugh Foundation) in English and Hindi.

Now, with the help of these new tools, if someone posts something on Facebook that makes you concerned about their well-being, you can reach out to them directly — and you also can also report the post to Facebook. The social media firm has teams working around the world, 24/7, who review reports that come in. They prioritize the most serious reports like self-injury and send help and resources to those in distress. As of today, the resources that Facebook sends to the person who posted something concerning will include an expanded set of options. People can now choose to reach out to a friend, contact a helpline, or see tips.

Vulnerable users will then be encouraged to connect to the AASRA India helpline or the Live Love Laugh Foundation or a friend, or to seek self-help advice from resources and tips provided on how they can work through these feelings. All of these resources were created in conjunction with our clinical and academic partners.

 

Facebbok suicide prevention tool

To help those in need further, Facebook is also introducing a Help A Friend in Need guide in India. This guide was originally created in partnership with The Jed Foundation and The Clinton Foundation, and in India we worked with AASRA, a charity that provides anonymous and confidential professional counselling to people in India, and The Live Love Laugh Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to addressing the issue of mental health in India. The Help A Friend in Need guide helps people identify when someone is distressed and what steps to take to get help. The guide also offers suggestions on how to approach their friend, what to say, how to react and what to avoid. It gives people the skills to reach out without fear of making the situation worse. The guide will be available in English, Hindi, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and Marathi.

Ankhi Das, Public Policy Director, Facebook India, South & Central Asia, said, “Often, friends and family who are the observers in these types of situations don’t know what to do. They’re concerned, but they’re worried about saying the wrong thing or somehow making it worse. Socially, mental illness and thoughts about suicide are just not something we talk about. Facebook is a place where people connect and share, and one of the things we have learnt from the mental health partners and academics we have worked with on this issue, is that being connected is a protective factor in suicide prevention. We care deeply about the safety and well-being of the 148 million people in India who use Facebook to connect with the people who matter to them and recognise there’s an opportunity with these tools and resources to connect someone who is struggling with a person they already have a relationship with.”

Anna Chandy, Chairperson – Trustees, The Live Love Laugh Foundation, said, “Mental illness and thoughts about suicide are just not something we talk about OPENLY. Yet talking and connecting is crucial to helping prevent depression and suicide. The tools Facebook is rolling out, aim both at people who are expressing suicidal thoughts and also guide concerned friends or family members to resources and alternatives and appropriate interventions. People use Facebook widely, so there’s an opportunity to actually connect someone who is struggling, to a person they have a relationship with. This is extremely important.”

Deepika Padukone, Founder of The Live Love Laugh Foundation said, “The Live Love Laugh Foundation is committed to reducing stigma and creating awareness around mental health in India. Suicide is a complex issue but the causal relationship between mental health and suicide is well established. The rate of suicide amongst the youth in India is one of the highest in the world. We are happy to partner with Facebook in this suicide prevention initiative. It is especially important to reach out to young people out there who are feeling depressed and encourage them to reach out for help. Society as a whole needs to be educated about this so that we are sensitized to signs of depression in our friends, neighbours and relatives and can guide them towards expert assistance”

Johnson Thomas, Director, AASRA said,“AASRA has been working with Facebook for several years to help people who are having suicidal thoughts. Facebook’s new tool is another step forward in helping to prevent suicide. We hope that by providing critical resources for people who may be thinking about suicide or self-injury and their concerned friends and family members will help those in need take the first step towards rekindling hope and seeking help at a time when everything seems hopeless and bleak.”

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