Today the Internet has become an integral part of every individual’s life. Be it personal, professional or social, there’s no sphere that has been left untouched by it. In fact, a life bereft of it is actually unimaginable in this day and age. Whether it be transnationals working across continents, or people staying in touch with loved ones across the world, the internet has facilitated a whole new mode of communication and work. It has also led to the creation of new platforms and forums such as the social media which includes, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Though these sites have a number of positives, they also have a flip side.
Society as we know it has changed. What happens in one part of the world or to an individual in his home can instantly be broadcasted or known to millions across the globe, in real time. At the same time, just as one’s ability to stay connected with loved ones has increased, so has the access of people or groups with less than good intentions. An infamous example that comes to mind is that of the “Blue Whale Game,” which has taken many innocent young lives so far. What started as a game on a social networking site in Russia, apparently started by secret death groups, spread like wildfire across the world, due to social media platforms, hurting many, forcing authorities to take action to stem the menace. Such is the power of the internet and internet-based forums. At the same time, the presence of Darknet also facilitates illegal activity virtually.
However, people use the internet to create value and reach out to many people. In one such act, in observance of the World Suicide Prevention Day 2017, Facebook has taken the initiative to help curb the number of suicides globally. The social media giant has launched a month-long suicide-prevention campaign in collaboration with Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Save.org and Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, a nonprofit operating out of the University of Washington’s School of Social Work. Throughout the month of September, Facebook will provide easy access to, relevant information about support groups and will use suicide-prevention tools and algorithms to spread awareness. This was revealed by Antigone Davis, Facebook Head of Global Safety.
Suicide prevention campaign
The month-long campaign by Facebook aims at helping users access information on suicide-prevention support groups and tools through ads in its News Feed. A new online well-being section has also been added to the Facebook’s Safety Center to assist users fighting with suicidal thoughts. This section contains certain tools that have been developed in collaboration with various mental health organizations to enable suicide prevention and support online well-being.
Facebook is unique as in it gives an opportunity to people to stay in touch with friends as well as make new ones, in addition to keeping in touch with family. It is like an online community in itself. That is why it is in a unique position to help someone. Often a post or status of a friend can indicate trouble. At such times this community can reach out and make a difference in a person’s life. Since in cases like suicide speed is of the essence, friends can not only identify when someone is low or feeling suicidal but can reach out for help. The company has teams working 24/7 who can assist.
When someone reaches out to the Facebook team they will help the person to start a conversation with a friend who is sounding suicidal by providing “recommended text.” They will also give them tips on how to handle the situation. Apart from this, the team will also try to help the person with suicidal thoughts by providing him/her with some helpful tips and resources, the local helpline number, etc.
How it works?
Facebook has started this campaign to make it easier for individuals to offer help to those in need. It can be accessed both on the desktop and mobile. As part of the campaign Facebook will offer its users options to provide help if they find a friend posting something that is concerning. The entire process can be summarized as follows:
- If a Facebook friend has a post on his/her wall that indicates a risk of self-harm, the user can click the little arrow on the topmost right of the post and hit on “Report Post.”
- On clicking “Report Post,” the user will be given options, such as contact the person who made the post, contact another friend for help or contact a suicide helpline.
- Once the person selects any of these options, Facebook scrutinizes the post to see if there is something that’s distressing. If it finds that there is, then the next time the person logs into his/her account, he/she will be contacted by Facebook with a pop-up that reads something like, “Hi John, a friend thinks you might be going through something difficult and asked us to look at your recent post.” The user will be given two options – “see post” and “continue.”
- If the user clicks “see post,” he/she will be redirected to the post. In case, he/she clicks on “continue,” the user will be allowed to reach out to a friend or get access to some essential tips and support. The options available would be titled as “talk to someone” and “get tips and support.”
- If the person selects “talk to someone,” Facebook will prompt him/her to call a friend, send message using a messenger or contact a suicide helpline or a suicide prevention expert.
Apart from these, the platform contributes directly by providing videos on true stories of people who have dealt with suicidal thoughts. Another section with recommendations on simple relaxation techniques like going for a walk or visiting a library and assistance to find a self-care expert is also available.
Offering help will get easier with Facebook
Facebook will no more be a mere platform to initiate a conversation with a friend but also function as a support group for someone in need. Through these initiatives, Facebook is trying to make it easier for people to find appropriate means and resources that can help in resolving conflicts, assist someone at risk of suicide, and get required support if he/she is having a tough time. In addition, the company has worked with suicide prevention groups and collected phrases, hashtags and group names related to online challenges that incite self-harm or suicide. Any irrelevant content that violates the “Community Standards” of Facebook and promotes self-injurious behavior will also be removed from the platform.
Suicides are taking many lives
Suicide is an extremely painful act that not only takes away a life forever but destroys families and even communities. Some of the common factors that trigger suicidal ideation in an individual are emotional stress, mental disorders, substance abuse, conflicts, disaster, violence, abuse and a sense of isolation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately one person dies every 40 seconds by committing suicide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that suicide caused around 42,826 deaths in a particular year.
However, it is possible to prevent suicide. One should stay alert, and if one notices a friend or a loved one showing signs of suicidal ideation, then one must seek help. Apart from this, they should do everything in their power to keep the affected individual away from means of suicide such as medications and firearms, etc. As a community, some of the initiatives that groups including relevant authorities can take include revising alcohol policies to reduce harmful intake of alcohol, treatment of mental health issues, and follow-up with individuals who had attempted suicide in the past, etc. Also, if one is feeling low he/she should open up and talk to someone trustworthy or even seek professional help.
Here’s how you can help someone with suicidal thoughts: Read more
Building a safe community
Davis referred to the new Facebook campaign as a part of its ongoing effort towards building a safe community. To meet its goal, the internet giant has been developing various helpful tools in collaboration with mental health organizations and has also been offering them to the society for more than a decade now. Therefore, as part of the World Suicide Prevention Day 2017, which is held every year on September 10, it has taken another step forward to digitally deal with the problem of increasing number of suicide cases globally.
This World Suicide Prevention Day 2017 that aims to spread awareness and curb the number of suicides committed by individuals every year, let us also do our bit in curtailing this number. It is important for every individual to understand that stress and worry are a part of day-to-day life. One should never let such situations take a toll on his/her life or health. Stay positive and avoid becoming a prey to games like blue whale challenge that have the potential to instigate a person to take his/her life. Also, it is important to seek help from an expert immediately in case one feels that he/she or a loved one is affected by any form of mental illness as delaying the same might lead to fatal results, including suicide.
What would you do to help a loved one having suicidal thoughts or dealing with some other form of mental illness?