Facebook has rolled out suicide prevention and support tools for vulnerable users and their concerned family and friends.
Suicide prevention organisations in Australia have applauded the move.
The social media network – which has almost 1.4 billion users worldwide – announced the feature at a conference in California on Thursday. The update allows users to report worrying posts, which are then reviewed. If a post is found to indicate distress or suicidal thoughts, Facebook sends the person a series of notifications that offer advice and access to professional helplines.
Facebook teamed up with mental health organisations and the University of Washington to develop the new online tools, which have already come into effect in the US.
Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Sue Murray said technology and social media could be positively used to engage with at-risk people and prevent suicide. More than 2400 Australians take their own lives each year.
Ms Murray said she hopes that in Australia, Facebook would direct people to local services and helplines.
Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harmon said her organisation would be interested in being a referral point.
Facebook’s initiative was important because often people were unsure what to do if they thought a friend or family member was considering suicide.
‘‘ I think Australians are quite literate when it comes to mental health but people are still quite fearful about initiating conversation with someone they are worried about,’’ Ms Harmon said.
The feature is not yet available in Australia.
For help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14
fearful . . .’
Georgie Harmon Beyond Blue CEO