Facebook launches new suicide prevention tool in the US

Shadows of people using phones in front of the Facebook logo

Facebook has launched a new tool in the US to help users who are worried about a friend's risk of suicide.

It will help people report posts which will trigger a message from the site.

"Often, friends and family who are the observers in this situation don't know what to do," said Holly Hetherington, a Facebook strategist.

In the past users have posted about taking their own lives, but no action was taken in time.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, BBC Advice has links to organisations that can help.

Example Facebook posting offering help with suicide prevention

This is how the new system will work.

"The person who flags the post will see a screen with links that allow them to message the potentially suicidal person, contact another Facebook friend for support or connect with a trained professional at a suicide helpline for guidance," University of Washington researchers explain.

Facebook then reviews the post and if the person is thought to be in distress then suggestions for getting help will display when they next log on.

For example Forefront, the university organisation that has been working with Facebook, have created videos which are based on real-life accounts of coping with thoughts of suicide.

Operations Manager Stephen Paul Miller had a friend and college classmate who killed himself five years ago.

He noticed a Facebook post from his friend one evening, saying that things were too much, that he couldn't take it anymore.

Miller resolved to call his friend in the morning but he died that night.

"The thing that breaks my heart the most about this is that I think it was just episodic. I don't think he wanted to die," Miller said.

"But I was not trained. I did not know what to do."

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