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Facebook's new suicide prevention tool is a step in the right directionKārlis Dambrāns via Flickr / Creative Commons

Facebook unveils new suicide prevention tool

The social network wants to support those struggling with suicidal thoughts

The world's biggest social network isn't the first place you would expect to find information on mental health and suicide prevention, but Facebook is trying to change that. Given its ubiquity, Facebook is often the go-to place for people to post a public cry for help. The tech giant has now announced that users can report directly to the company if they see a friend post a troubling message or update. 

When you flag up the post to Facebook, a trained team will review the reported post and get in touch with the user if necessary. The person will see this private notification on their next login: "Hi (insert name), a friend thinks you might be going through something difficult and asked us to look at your recent post."

Facebook will then offer options to contact the person concerned about them, speak to another friend for help, connect them with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or read tips and advice on how to deal with suicidal feelings. 

The company elaborated on the new tool in a statement: "We have teams working around the world, 24/7, who review any report that comes in. They prioritize the most serious reports, like self-injury, and send help and resources to those in distress."

Facebook worked with mental health organisations Forefront, Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and to create the tool, which will be rolled out in the US in the next couple of months.

It's admirable that Facebook is confronting mental health issues, but the move is long overdue. Social media isn't just where many of us spill our darkest thoughts – at its worst, it can also be a breeding ground for cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment and violence. But at least this a step in the right direction. 

This is what the new notification tool will look like: