Facebook is updating its suicide prevention policies this week to make it easier for users to alert the social network if they think one of their friends is considering harming themselves. Researchers have noticed that many Facebook users share their emotions with status updates and are now trying to intervene in potentially drastic cases before it's too late.
If a user notices that a friend seems upset, they will now have the option to click an arrow on the top right side of the status and select “Report Post.” The next time the user who made the initial post logs onto Facebook they'll be met with a message saying, “A friend thinks you might be going through something difficult and asked us to look at your recent post. Only you can see this. Anything you do there will be kept private.”
Facebook, which worked on the update with Forefront, a research organization at the University of Washington, then shows the user videos about the best ways to cope with suicidal thoughts. This is a major update to the policy Facebook has had in place since 2011. That process is more time-consuming than the new one, which was inspired after a number of suicides in which people warned of their intention to harm themselves on Facebook and other social media outlets before they carried out the act.
“One of the first things these organizations discussed with us was how much connecting with people who care can help those in distress,” wrote Facebook product manager Rob Boyle and community operations safety specialist Nicole Staubli in a post announcing the update. “We have teams working around the world, 24/7, who review any report that comes in. They prioritize the most serious reports, like self-injry, and send help and resources to those in distress.”