Facebook Launches New Tool To Help Prevent Suicides

The new tool gives people who may not want to pick up the phone a direct way to get help

By Betty Yu
|  Wednesday, Dec 14, 2011  |  Updated 8:12 PM EDT
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Facebook is raising the red flag to help prevent suicide by putting users in touch with a counselor through it's chat feature.

Facebook is raising the red flag to help prevent suicide by putting users in touch with a counselor through it's chat feature.

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Facebook is raising the red flag to help prevent suicide by putting users in touch with a counselor through it's chat feature.

The new tool gives people who may not want to pick up the phone a direct way to get help.

Rolando Torrellas, 17, says it's not unusual to come across dark thoughts posted by Facebook friends on his news feed.

"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. The company launched a new tool Tuesday to allow users to connect with a counselor through its instant messaging feature, once a friend flags a suicidal comment.

"I think that's phenomenal for young kids," said Facebook user Gail Pithey.  "I don't use the chat as much as my daughter does and her friends do, so I think that's great."

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 drop down menu, click on "suicidal content."

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

"Talking to someone over the phone might be a little bit weird, so maybe an I'm chat can actually go through a lot better," said Facebook user Omar Hernandez.

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

"I'll be anonymous, so that way I wouldn't feel that being a conflict in that person's life or intervening too much," added Hernandez.

Lifeline says counselors will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to users who want to use the online chat.

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