Latest Facebook Feature Tries to Combat Suicide

Facebook is already ahead of the game.

Facebook is already ahead of the game.

I have my gripes with the so-called ‘Digital Age’. To me, many social media platforms are breeding grounds for narcissism, insecurity, ego, and insensitivity. Cyber bullying has become embedded in our culture — while laudable campaigns that seek to end virtual discrimination and hateful remarks are encouraging, there still remains serious room for improvement. The news is still rife with stories detailing suicides committed by victims of Cyber bullying. Facebook, as perhaps the mammoth form of social media, is finally taking a step in the right direction, and acknowledging, though indirectly, its own role in cyber cruelty. 

What Facebook is Doing

According to the Huffington Post, Facebook announced in February that it would be rolling out a suicide prevention feature. The social media platform has provided its users with the ability to report suicidal content since 2011, but its new feature will streamline the process and provide several options for those struggling with thoughts of self-inflicted harm. If a friend views a potentially threatening post implying self harm, users are given the option to contact their Facebook friend, another friend or a suicide helpline. The person then becomes notified that a friend is concerned about them and asked if they’d like to call a friend or message a suicide prevention expert, the Huffington Post reports. 

How Bad Are Things?

Suicide rates had dropped from 12.5 deaths per 100,000 people to 10.4 from 1990-2000, according to the CDC. Since 2000, aligning with the onset of the social media craze, those statistics gradually rose to 12.1 deaths per 100,000 in 2010. While a variety of factors lead a person to consider taking his/her life, researchers have been studying the link between suicide-related behavior and social media. Shah A, a researcher who conducted a cross-national study on suicidal behavior, examined the association between general population suicide rates and the prevalence of Internet users, using data from the World Health Organization’s and the United Nations Development Program’s Web sites. Shah, according to the National Library of Medicine, indicated that the prevalence of Internet users was positively correlated with general population suicide rates. 

What’s Being Done Already?

Facebook had previously teamed up with the United Kingdom- and Ireland-based Samaritans charity organization to launch a suicide alert reporting system, in addition to having formerly collaborated with the United Kingdom Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) to create a panic-button application to give users an easy way to report cyber bullying. More recently, the social media maven partnered with a number of suicide prevention networks for this feature including Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Save.org and Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention–efforts that should all be extolled. Research on the link between social media and its influence on suicide-related behavior is still being analyzed and understood, but its connection is seemingly unarguable. Despite its debatable influence on society, Facebook is establishing a precedent for other social media platforms to follow suit.

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