Great to see so much publicity for the Facebook suicide-prevention initiative running in conjunction with Samaritans, which makes it much easier to do something useful if you’re worried about a friend’s state of mind.
The idea is that when someone you know is posting updates that suggest they are in a troubled or worrying frame of mind, you have quick and easy access to a Facebook help page that deals specifically with the issue of suicide.
The site makes it clear that a direct threat of suicide should be reported to relevant authorities, but goes on to give a load of useful advice if things might not have gone that far.
Obviously, the ideal situation is that we all have a friendly ear when we need one, and correspondingly, that we’d all have the confidence to approach a friend and ask “do you need any help?” if we think it’s needed.
Fo a lot of people, that is easier said than done, though, so I think the difference that this system will make is in the anonymous reporting function. This lets you contact Facebook to report a worrying comment you have seen posted by a friend. Facebook then gets in contact with the Samaritans to ensure that the affected person is contacted with an offer of help.
Even without publicity, the system has had quite a lot of use, so now that people are aware of it, hopefully it will start to make a difference.