Thursday, June 7, 2012

By John Draper, PhD, Vice President
Crisis and Behavioral Health Technology
and Lifeline Project Director
Mental Health Association
of New York City (MHA-NYC)

T he Facebook safety team sees messages like the following every day: “I’m goin to kill myself this is my last post ever ill will miss u all…” 1 Since there are more than 37,000 deaths by suicide every year,2 and more than 50% of Americans have a Facebook profile,3 it’s not surprising that people are expressing their feelings of hopeless and suicidal ideation on the world’s most popular social networking site. That’s one reason the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline began offering crisis services to Facebook users in suicidal crisis via chat. Since 2006, the Lifeline has been working with Facebook to provide help to at risk users, harnessing the power of social media to reach people where they are. The Mental Health Association of New York
City (MHA-NYC) has been administrating the Lifeline project through our subsidiary, Link2Health Solutions, since 2004. The Lifeline is a nationwide network of more than 150 local crisis centers, including
New York City’s LifeNet, providing telephone and online help, federally funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Although the Lifeline on average handles 70,000 calls per month, we heard from our Facebook fans and others that many people in crisis do not feel comfortable
picking up the phone. Now there is a way for at-risk people to get the help they
need the way they want it. Initially, people who reported a friend’s troublesome content on Facebook
would generate a message from Facebook encouraging the friend to call the Lifeline
at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The new service, which began in December 2011, enables friends using either the Report Suicidal Content link or the report links found throughout the site, to cause an email from Facebook that now also includes a link to begin a confidential chat session with a trained crisis counselor.To read more, click here.

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