H-CENTRAL COAST

Dec 13, 2011 9:21 PM by Ariel Wesler

Facebook connects users to suicide hotline

Facebook launched a new feature today aimed at helping to prevent suicide.

The social networking site says the new service will allow users to connect directly with a crisis counselor. That counselor is from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Users can talk with them through the site's chat messaging system. Facebook doesn't plan to track and monitor the suicidal messages itself. Instead, the social networking giant is encouraging and relying on its users to report suicidal messages they see on their friends' Facebook pages, so they can get help.

It's home to 800 million active users. The average user has about 130 friends, who Facebook officials hope can spot the tell-tale signs of potential suicide.

"It seems like the friends are the first ones to know about that situation," said Angela Collins, a Crisis Intervention Consultant at Santa Maria High School.

Collins says sometimes the warning signs are obvious, but most often, they are not.

"I've seen other students who maybe in their poetry or in their post where it might be kind of dark and really sounding depressed," she said.

Here's how it works. If you spots a suicidal thought on Facebook, you can report it by clicking a link next to the comment. Facebook will send an email to the person who posted the comment encouraging them to call the suicide hotline or click a link for a confidential chat. Some experts say it's a step in the right direction.

"It's really important that we get people, businesses like Facebook that say this is important to address and find ways to connect those youth to the great help-seeking services that are available to them that many of them don't even know about," said Dr. Dan Reidenberg, Executive Director of SAVE, a non-profit nationwide that works to raise suicide awareness.

Collins feels Facebook is using a teen-friendly approach.

"They seem like they're more comfortable communicating that way than actually maybe going face to face or even calling. I think they want to text and they want to be on Facebook."

We wanted to see what you had to say about the new Facebook feature. Here are couple posts from our KSBY Facebook page.

Dan Williams wrote:

"I'm sure it can save a few, but it also may make other situations worse, and push someone over the edge."

Nancy Holloway wrote:

"Maybe they need to stop all those BRATS, who say bad things about other children from posting what they post. close down their accounts. Get them off Facebook."

For more resources on suicide prevention, click here

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