Online social giant Facebook revealed a new feature in February that could help save lives. Called a “suicide prevention tool” by the company, it encourages users to report posts where someone may be threatening to harm themselves.
Facebook developed the tool after consulting with various mental health organizations and with people who have self-harmed or attempted suicide.
The feature works by allowing users to access a special drop-down menu of options when they come across a concerning post. The choices available are contacting the poster directly, contacting another Facebook friend to receive support or connecting with a trained suicide helpline counselor. Posts may also be flagged for review by Facebook.
The team that created the feature stated that many people who are suicidal often talk about it on social media beforehand. Save.org’s executive director, Dan Reidenberg, said that everyone is responsible for suicide prevention and people are more likely to be saved through the connections they have made.
Facebook has 1.4 billion users, making it the largest social network in the world. Often viewed as promoting superficial friendships, the company hopes this meaningful change will shift perception about the connections it creates.
The new feature will be rolled out to users in the United States over the next 60 days. Facebook is also working to include users outside of the U.S. in the coming year.