Facebook is offering a new service on its website to help prevent suicides in the United States and Canada, the social-networking giant announced Tuesday (Dec. 13).
The service is a collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a toll-free suicide prevention hotline network comprised of 152 local crisis centers.
Facebook users can report a suicidal comment they see posted by a friend to Facebook using either the Report Suicidal Content link or the "report" links found throughout the site.
The person who posted the suicidal comment immediately receives an e-mail from Facebook encouraging them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or to click on a link to begin a confidential chat session with a crisis worker.
The Lifeline provides free and confidential crisis counseling to anyone in need 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and has answered over 3 million calls since its launch in 2005, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
"We're proud to expand our partnership with Lifeline, and to provide those in crisis with even more options to seek help.
"The Lifeline's commitment to suicide prevention has enabled people on Facebook to get fast, meaningful help when they need it most, and we look forward to continuing our work with them to help save lives," Facebook's Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan said.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin commended Facebook and the Lifeline for addressing one of the nation's most tragic public health problems. She and Sullivan serve on the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
"Nearly 100 Americans die by suicide every day -- 36,035 lives every year. For every person who is murdered, two die by suicide. These deaths are even more tragic because they are preventable. We have effective treatments to help suicidal individuals regain hope and a desire to live and we know how powerful personal connections and support can be.
"Therefore we as a nation must do everything we can to reach out to those at risk and provide them the help and hope needed to survive and return to productive lives with their family, friends, and communities," she said.
Crisis center workers from two centers in the Lifeline network, the Boys Town National Hotline and Goodwill of the Finger Lakes' 2-1-1/LIFE LINE, will respond to Facebook users opting to use the chat. The Lifeline currently responds to dozens of people each day who have expressed suicidal thoughts on Facebook, according to the announcement.
"We have been partnering with Facebook since 2006 to assist at-risk users and are thrilled to launch this new service," said John Draper, the Lifeline's project director.
"Although the Lifeline on average handles 70,000 calls per month, we have heard from our Facebook fans and others that there are many people in crisis who don't feel comfortable picking up the phone. This new service provides a way for them to get the help they need in the way they want it."
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
It is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and administered by Link2Health Solutions, a subsidiary of the Mental Health Association of New York City.