Facebook launches Suicide Prevention Tools in Ireland

5 Sep 2016

The new tools aim to ensure warning signs aren’t ignored

Ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day this Saturday, Facebook, with the support of Samaritans Ireland, has rolled out new tools to ensure that warning signs aren’t ignored.

The idea of the new tools is to ensure that people struggling to cope, as well as friends and family, can find advice, resources, and emotional support.

Because conversations that happen on Facebook often mirror those happening offline, responding to warning signs is crucial and can save lives.

‘Research shows that social media feeds can be effective indicators of what happens in real life’

Samaritans Ireland executive director Deirdre Toner said that the role of social media in identifying an individual in distress and empowering friends to do something to intervene is becoming increasingly important.

“Social media is a tool that some people use to communicate their feelings when life is tough and they’re feeling overwhelmed,” said Toner.

“Samaritans provides support to people who are going through a tough time, for whatever reason.  Research shows that social media feeds can be effective indicators of what happens in real life, so those who threaten suicide online can often go on to make an attempt at taking their own life, therefore messages that cause concern should not be ignored.”

You’ve got a friend


The new tools – the global rollout of which was originally announced in June of this year – are designed to help those in need of support as well as their friends.

For example, if someone sees a direct threat of suicide, Facebook asks users to, as well as contacting local emergency services immediately, flag any troubling content by reporting the post.

Facebook said it has teams that work around the world 24/7 to review any posts of concerns that are highlighted. These posts are prioritised, and help options and resources are sent to users suspected of being in distress.

As well as encouraging users to connect with trained volunteers at Samaritans, the tools now offer the option of reaching out to a friend, as well as providing advice on how to work through suicidal feelings.

Individuals who flag a troubling post are also given resources such as the ability to call or message a distressed friend, or reach out to other friends or a trained volunteer for support.

Facebook said that reported content is confidential and the identity of people who flagged a troubling report is kept confidential.

“We worked with organisations including Samaritans to develop these tools, and one of the first things they told us was how much connecting with people who care can help those who are struggling to cope – whether offline or online,” explained Julie de Bailliencourt, Safety Policy manager at Facebook.

“People use Facebook to connect with friends and family, and that’s why we’re evolving the support, resources and advice available to people who are in distress and their concerned friends and family members.”

Suicide prevention image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years