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Facebook to offer suicide prevention help for alarming commenters

Tech Corner

POSTED: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 - 4:51pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 - 7:36pm

Facebook is raising the red flag to help prevent suicide by putting users in touch with a counselor through its chat feature. The new tool gives people who may not want to pick up the phone a direct way to get help.

Betty Yu explains.

Rolondo Torrellas says it's not unusual to come across dark thoughts posted by Facebook friends on his newsfeed.

"You see comments to other friends that they hate their life, or they don't want to live anymore," said Torrellas.

Many troubled people have posted their final thoughts on Facebook. Tuesday, the company launched a new tool to allow users to connect with a counselor through its instant messaging feature once a friend flags a suicidal comment.

Here's how it works. If you spot an alarming comment, click the ‘X’ next to it, choose "Report As Abuse", select "Violence or Harmful Behavior", and in the dropdown menu click on "Suicidal Content."

Facebook then sends it to its partner, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and an email to the user with an invitation to start a confidential instant chat.

"Talking to someone over the phone might be a little bit weird or might be a little bit too personal, so maybe an IM chat can actually go through," stated Facebook use Omar Hernandez. “I will be anonymous, so that way I wouldn't feel that I am being a conflict of person is in that person's life or intervening too much."

It's a softer, tech-savvy way of reaching out to a friend.

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