Facebook has partnered up with the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to introduce a way to give users the option to speak to a crisis counselor over the service's live chat implementation.
The program opened today, with counselors online 24 hours a day ready to talk to anyone who is expressing suicidal thoughts. The process works through the support of friends: if one spots someone expressing the aforementioned thoughts on their news feed, they can then immediately report it to Facebook by clicking a link next to the wall post/comment, leading to the social network emailling the reported user directly. In this will be a link to a completely confidential live chat with a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline professional, who will provide non-judgemental emotional support in the situation.
This, of course, has sparked the interest of the Samaritans in UK, who were interested in taking this step to implement their help and care into a social media application. Being the first to implement an email-based suicide prevention service, they understand the huge attention economy surrounding social media, and are currently assessing the sphere which they'll be entering to ensure they can give the best service they can. "It is a goal for us. It's just that we don't have the technology or the resources to do it yet," Nicola Peckett, head of communications for Samaritans, told the BBC.
Better than the previous systems Facebook have tried before (simply giving the user a hotline to contact wasn't going to work), the process is much more instantaneous and just a much more streamlined process to help your friend in need.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.