Facebook is expanding its suicide prevention feature

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American Facebook users will soon be able to send rafts of help to friends if they see posts expressing suicidal thoughts, the company announced yesterday. Facebook will notify the flagged user the next time the person signs on, with messages from Facebook that suggest connecting with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a friend, or “tips and advice on how they can work through these feelings.”

Facebook's suicide prevention tool
Facebook will send this message to a user whose post has been flagged.
Image: Facebook
Facebook's suicide prevention tool
Facebook will offer “tips and advice”
Image: Facebook

Facebook users were already able to flag worrisome posts about other users, which would prompt Facebook to send the flagged friend the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a Facebook spokesman tells Quartz. Going the extra step of sending helpful tools to the notifying friend can help channel their concern and diffuse panic, says Stephen Miller, the operations manager of the University of Washington suicide prevention research group Forefront, which helped Facebook develop the tool.

If a user considers a friend to be in immediate danger, Facebook directs the use to call local emergency services right away, rather than flagging Facebook.

US Facebook users will see the updates in the next few months. The company says it’s still working on expanding resources to address suicide risk for other countries.

The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US is 1-800-273-8255.