Social Media & Suicide Prevention

Last year I wrote about an update to Facebook and Instagram that was aimed to help connect people who were suicidal to professionals at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Now, a little over a year later, Facebook has taken this a step further and stated that they’ll use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to flag posts that could be concerning and connect those to a human who can then contact mental health professionals and local responders.

“This is about shaving off minutes at every single step of the process, especially in Facebook Live,” says VP of product management Guy Rosen. Over the past month of testing, Facebook has initiated more than 100 “wellness checks” with first-responders visiting affected users. “There have been cases where the first-responder has arrived and the person is still broadcasting.” – TechCrunch

This update comes at a time when there are over 2 billion monthly Facebook users, nearly 5 billion YouTube videos are watched every day and 200 million people check Instagram on a daily basis. Whether you think social media is the greatest thing in the world or you can’t stand it, the truth is that most people in the world use at least one form of social media and this update is a step in the right direction for suicide prevention.

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The Power of Social Media

It seems lately that more and more people are standing up and speaking out against social media. I won’t disregard the fact that it can lead to negative things like bullying FOMO, & unreal expectations but we can’t overlook the fact that it can also give people a chance to connect, to voice their opinions & to even get help.

Here I have to be blatantly honest and say that I might have a bias toward this medium as I currently work in the world of social media, but I think we often neglect the fact that there is good that comes from these platforms, too.

Last year, Facebook rolled out a tool that allowed suicidal users to connect with a professional at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Now, Instagram (owned by Facebook) seems to be following a similar route. If a user notices a post that seems to nod to self-harm or suicidal thoughts, it can be reported to get that individual connected to a hotline or seek other ways to help. The platform has even taken things one step further by also blocking hashtags like #thinspo & #selfharm.

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In a world where teenagers are constantly connected and chatting, it’s refreshing to see that these tools are evolving and trying to help with other major needs many teenagers face: depression and suicidal thoughts.

Though social media isn’t perfect and it can lend its way to many negative things, it’s being used by millions of people across the world, and it’s reassuring to know that these platforms care about their users well-being and mental health.

New Suicide Prevention Program Goes Into Action

After eleven years of being somewhat dormant, the government has finally put a new suicide prevention plan into effect. This new strategy aiming to help prevent and gain awareness on suicide will include $55.6 million in grant funding for programs.

One part of this plan is a social media application which will be paired with Facebook Inc. to help report suicidal concerns seen on the social media website, as reported by Reuters. Many people have reached out on Facebook as a last cry for help. The Internet can be a cruel place, as was the case with Tyler Clementi and many others who have suffered from bullying, with the new Facebook application users can report comments on the site and the individual who posted it will then receive an email with hotline information and places to go to talk about the problem at hand.

This new funding will also go to prevention programs and will serve to increase awareness in the media through PSA’s and will promote the National Suicide Prevention Line (1-800-273-TALK).

Many outlets will be getting involved with this new initiative to help prevent more suicides from happening, “We didn’t really talk about suicide much,” Surgeon General Benjamin said to Reuters. “We didn’t bring up the idea of suicide. We were afraid it might give someone a new idea. Now we know that it’s important to ask, ‘Have you had suicidal thoughts?’”

To finally see action put into place makes everything that we’re doing here worthwhile. There hasn’t been a plan in over ten years, and suddenly, we’re receiving funding and creating online applications that could help save lives. Progress is being made, we just can’t allow ourselves to stop now. It’s all about spreading awareness.

Social Media Uses Chat in a New Way

Facebook,Twitter, and Tumblr have become many people’s sources of reaching out to others, discovering themselves, as well as becoming a news source. Today, as I was searching through my Facebook I came across the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Facebook page. As I was reading up on them and searching through their posts I found something interesting.

Not only can people struggling with suicidal thoughts find a phone line where they can talk, but now these people can speak to a counselor via Facebook chat. Some people may be skeptical as to whether these people who may be struggling should be finding their help hiding behind a screen, I think it’s great that there is yet another outlet for people. For those suffering from suicidal thoughts or mental illness, sometimes reaching out at all is very hard. Now, those who may be thinking about talking to someone but are still a bit unsure can sit down and talk out their problems with a professional.

If you or a friend is struggling with suicidal thoughts, I urge you to call the lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or visit their Facebook Page