Facebook came up with an innovative public service just in time for National Suicide Prevention Week this week. With hindsight being 20-20, loved ones of those who have taken their own lives often recall suspect Facebook wall posts or status updates that they wish they had taken seriously. Now, there is a service whereby users can report updates that merit caution by their friends and loved ones. Those at-risk will then receive an email urging them to call a suicide prevention hotline or a confidential online counselor.
According to Marne Levine, Facebook’s global vice president for public policy, “All too often, people in crisis do not know how—or who—to ask for help," and now "We have a unique opportunity to provide the right resources to our users in distress, when and where they need them most." And this service is much needed, as there were 36,000 Americans who took their own lives last year and another estimated 8 million who reportedly contemplated suicide according to SAMHSA. The hope is that by alerting at-risk individuals that confidential services are available that alarming number can be curbed.
Suicide is closely linked with depression and substance abuse. Suicide prevention counselors are the first step in treating the underlying issues that prompt someone to consider taking their own lives. Thousands of Americans are now putting their mental health first and seeking treatment for depression, trauma, eating disorders alcoholism and addiction. Since these disorders often cause isolation from friends and family, Facebook may be one of the limited ways in which the person suffering has a social outlet – in fact, it may be the only social tool they use. By bridging those at risk with mental health professionals and ultimately treatment centers, Facebook has done a great public service.
If you or a loved one suffers from depression, suicidal thoughts or substance abuse, you can find treatment centers that specialize in your condition at Passport to Recovery.