Facebook to launch suicide prevention tool

A new tool will allow Facebook to contact -- at users' urging -- potentially suicidal posters (Facebook)

WASHINGTON — In the age of social media, a mere Facebook post could leave friends and family worried that a loved one might be poised to take their own life.

But in the coming weeks, the social media giant will launch a new tool to steer users who express such suicidal thoughts towards help.

The tool will allow users to tell Facebook about friends who they fear are in danger. Once reported, the troubled poster will receive a personalized message from Facebook that will offer them support and resources.

Susan Rosenstock of Potomac, Md. supports the move by Facebook. Rosenstock began Umttr, an organization that works to prevent teen suicide, after her 16-year-old son took his own life in 2013.

After her son’s death, Rosenstock says she discovered how far-reaching social media really is. “On his rest in peace Facebook page there were 7,000 likes. I didn’t even know he knew 7,000 people,” she said.

Often, adults are last to know when a teenager is battling suicidal thoughts, she tells WTOP. “It’s going to be noticed by their friends and peers before it would get to an adult.”

Friends usually note a personality shift first, recognizing when someone close to them becomes uncharacteristically angry, agitated, anxious or moody. Those changes may indicate that a person needs help, and the tool will allow people from anywhere in the world to point the person in the right direction.

The new feature is expected to roll out in the coming weeks.


Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

© 2015 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.