What Do Facebook & Suicide Prevention Have to Do with Each Other? A Lot

What Do Facebook & Suicide Prevention Have to Do with Each Other? A Lot

This should’ve happened years ago. Luckily, it is happening now. Facebook, the social networking giant, will be beginning to take steps to help users who may be dealing with suicidal ideation.

We’ve all been there: scrolling through Facebook’s News Feed, something catches our eye – an ambiguous post by a Facebook friend that sounds like they are hurting, are in trouble, or could use some help. But what do we do about that? Especially if it’s not a close friend, how do we go about bringing up the conversation about suicide that is now the elephant in the (chat)room?

With Facebook’s new tool, you know exactly what to do. Now, you can flag those posts that strike you as potentially depressed or suicidal in tone. Facebook will then reach out to the “flagged” person with options to care for their mental health.

Is this a perfect tool? Probably not. As we know, technology isn’t perfect, and all the algorithms in the world can’t completely predict and/or respond to these completely personal, utterly painful situations. But is it a step in the right direction? Heck yes. In a generation of clicking, “Liking”, and double-tapping through social media as the new way to communicate, this is a natural progression to use our tech savvy while still showing that we care for our loved ones and Facebook friends. In a world where we have become more comfortable writing personal and revealing posts to a large platform of users than speaking to one another face-to-face, where written language is fully acknowledged as a powerful tool to express emotions, this is the inevitable consequence.

Maybe you wouldn’t know how to approach this potentially suicidal person face-to-face; if so, here are tips for broaching this tricky topic. Perhaps you never even interact with them face-to-face anymore, as is the case with many Facebook friends (and the reason why Facebook was invented in the first place!). Regardless, this becomes a way that we as Facebook users can more accurately (for lack of a better term) “police” the world of our family, friends, and others in social media. After all, we all have eyes and we are probably already reading these posts anyway; now we have something we can actually do about them.

We can be empowered users of technology. As we become more and more comfortable talking about suicide, depression, and mental health in general, maybe this Facebook tool will make itself obsolete inasmuch as people struggling with suicidal ideation will skip posting to Facebook altogether and realize it’s okay after all to get the help that they need.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons – U.S. Marine Corps

– Kristen Martinez, M.Ed., Ed.S., LMHCA, NCC Therapist in Seattle

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