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Facebook Launches Suicide-Prevention Effort 159

Posted by timothy
from the d'ya-call-in-sick? dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "Facebook launched an initiative that gives users who have expressed suicidal thoughts the option to connect directly with a crisis counselor via Facebook chat. Facebook doesn't troll the site in search of those who might be suicidal; with 800 million users who generate billions of posts, Facebook's algorithm could easily misinterpret comments. Instead, the new initiative is dependent on people speaking up when they feel a friend might be in danger."
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Facebook Launches Suicide-Prevention Effort

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  • by InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:03PM (#38357584)
    It's one of those things where the massive size of Facebook can be used for real good. There are already existing hotlines but I doubt they work that well preventing suicides. While they are useful, they aren't shown to people exactly when they really need it. They might know about them, but there's no incentive to try them at those moments. So when Facebook asks it good moment, it could easily save many lifes. Since this still needs the user to agree, it can't be used for harassing people either. If it was automatic it would be stupid, but this way it's only useful.

    So overall, really good option.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:04PM (#38357606)

      Other than do I really want facebook to know about a mental history since they log everything... How long before they sell any of this info off or it gets scraped? I'll pass.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:07PM (#38357654)

        If you are suicidal, facebook tracking you is the least of your worries.

      • by InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:07PM (#38357668)

        Other than do I really want facebook to know about a mental history since they log everything... How long before they sell any of this info off or it gets scraped? I'll pass.

        Just like with Google, most of Facebook's value comes from the data they own. They would be insane to sell that data to others. They may use it to match advertisers with people by using keywords, age and similar metrics, but they will never sell off the data because that is their most valuable asset.

        Also, this option really doesn't change anything what Facebook knows about you. It presents you an option to discuss with professionals if you need help.

        • by rainmouse (1784278) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:12PM (#38357738)

          Also, this option really doesn't change anything what Facebook knows about you. It presents you an option to discuss with professionals if you need help.

          Can't help but feel that people who are having genuine thoughts about suicide would be rather unlikely to care about updating their facebook status to reflect this. Given the way FB has consistently treated its userbase with greed and contempt, it's hard not to see this as a PR stunt wrapped around another data gold mining opportunity.

          • by InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:17PM (#38357830)
            While it doesn't apply to all suicide cases, there's also those where the person has told about it has suicidal feelings just prior to it. There's been many news about such cases too regarding internet. Some person has announced widely that he or she is going to do an suicide on some site or video chat. In most of those cases people's only option has been to call the police and after they arrive, it's already too late. They don't have the experience and knowledge to talk to persons with such ideas. That's why FB jumping in and referring the person to talk to a professional should be a good thing.
          • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @02:14PM (#38358804) Homepage Journal

            You only think that because you are pretty clueless about suicide, who does it, and what leads to it.

          • You'd be surprised. I'm no expert on the matter, but as a former Army officer who had to serve in Iraq I've been through more than my share of suicide prevention training. It's an annual requirement normally, and I think we did it two or three extra times on deployment. While it's by no means universal, apparently most people who attempt suicide give warning ahead of time, often fairly explicit warning. Mostly they aren't taken seriously.

            Also I'm pretty sure that there are laws preventing Facebook from

          • by bws111 (1216812)

            Well, you're wrong. See for instance this story [cnn.com] about a well-known case.

            The 18-year-old Rutgers freshman killed himself after prosecutors say his roommate secretly recorded a video of Clementi kissing another man and posted it online. His final message on Facebook read, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

          • by a_hanso (1891616)

            ...people who are having genuine thoughts about suicide would be rather unlikely to care about updating their facebook status

            No. While they will never directly announce it, people who are severely depressed or in crisis -- especially young people -- will tend to put up updates that are hints to their states of mind. I've seen these come in the form of famous quotations that say something to the effect, "This is a cruel world". Sometimes it is just an unhappy face smiley. Sometimes it is a cryptic update that hints something is wrong but doesn't say what.

            Fortunately, most people among my friends quickly respond to such updates. P

        • by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:29PM (#38358050) Journal

          ...they will never sell off the data because that is their most valuable asset

          Because, of course, user data is a limited resource that is static and non-renewable.

          Of course they sell it! Like bread, user data goes stale - people make new connections, gain new interests, move to new places, get new jobs - new new new! Sell the data today because tomorrow there will be more, and different data.

          Also, this option really doesn't change anything what Facebook knows about you

          Except that you're suicidal. I can count the number of insurance companies that aren't interested in buying THAT data on NO HANDS.

          How many kids will be snatched up by their local flavor of child protective services when it becomes known that they spoke with a crisis counselor?

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            Except that you're suicidal. I can count the number of insurance companies that aren't interested in buying THAT data on NO HANDS.

            Suicide doesn't matter to insurance companies. If you do an suicide, they're not going to pay anything anyway. Did you really think you could get some really high insurance and then do suicide to get your family cash?

            • by JazzLad (935151)
              Actually, you typically just have to wait 2-5 years [too lazy for citation, but I do know someone who's family collected on a declared suicide] from policy start before committing suicide.
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Anonymous Coward

                This is correct -- I work for a life insurance company. Policies held for two years or more cannot be rescinded for any reason, because it is assumed people have a vested interest in their own life. This rule comes from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and has been adopted into state law in all 50 states.

                Life insurance is surprisingly well regulated. It's pretty hard for a company to dispute that someone is dead, so nearly all claims are paid out. Even an honest mistake, such as miss

            • by Knuckles (8964)

              Suicide doesn't matter to insurance companies. If you do an suicide, they're not going to pay anything anyway.

              Seems to be a very good reason for suicide to matter for insurance companies.

            • Who said anything about getting a payout? I think people would find their policies cancelled.

              • This. And it doesn't even have to be proof of suicidal thoughts. I once entered "mild depression" on a company health insurance application form. I was denied extended coverage even after my doctor wrote to clarify it was more social anxiety than depression. It didn't matter; my HR rep said that insurance companies will use ANY mental health issue listed as an excuse to deny extended coverage.

          • by geekoid (135745)

            "- people make new connections, gain new interests, move to new places, get new jobs - new new new! "

            not as often as you think.

            "How many kids will be snatched up by their local flavor of child protective services when it becomes known that they spoke with a crisis counselor?"

            Zero.

        • So if you express suicidal thoughts they'll serve up ads for House of Knives and CNS?

        • Just like with Google, most of Facebook's value comes from the data they own. They would be insane to sell that data to others.

          They're more likely to sell a metric, ala credit scores. Credit agencies don't dump their raw data on their clients.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Please dont do it, let Facebook kill itself!

      • Now I know why I've started seeing ads for Zoloft and Prozac while chatting with my friends from college.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ShakaUVM (157947)

      Is it good? It seems creepy to me.

      You don't want to get flagged because you typed "/wrist" in some game thread.

      Even worse if they log that shit, and it turns up the next time you apply for a job...

      • You don't want to get flagged because you typed "/wrist" in some game thread.

        Note that it isn't automatic. It's only if people report it as such. And to counter trolling, it only presents you an option on what to do. There would be a case if it automatically transferred you to talk to someone, but it doesn't.

      • "Even worse if they log that"... roflcopter

    • It sounds like a service that's just asking to be trolled.
      • Indeed. The summary meant "trawled" of course. Trolling the users would imply Facebook posting fake messages from friends telling them to do it.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          The summary meant "trawled" of course. Trolling the users would imply Facebook posting fake messages from friends telling them to do it.

          Except, outside [reference.com] of [merriam-webster.com] the internet [thefreedictionary.com], that word doesn't always mean what you describe.

          In this case, 'troll' is a perfectly legitimate usage of the word.

          • I know what "troll" means, and in this case they meant "trawl". I was wondering if I was wrong reading your definitions, but on further research I'm still correct. Trolling is fishing with a dragline (never heard of that before), while trawling is using a dragnet - which is what you figuratively do if you're searching through data.

            In the case of saying how Facebook could troll, that was what I like to call a joke. Guess I should have used one of these :p

            • by bws111 (1216812)

              I disagree. Trolling is discriminatory. It is commonly used by sport fishermen. You select bait, lure, whatever that will appeal to the fish you want, put your line in the water, and slowly move around until you get a bite. Then, you bring the fish in and keep it if it the type you want.

              Trawling is non-discriminatory. It is used by commercial fishermen. You drag a great big net behind your boat and it catches everything in it's path.

              Trolling would be what Facebook would be doing - looking for specific

              • When. i think of trawling I think of fisnhng, or trawling a lake for dead bodies for example. You have to start off indiscriminately checking/catching every post (every bit of garbage at the bottom of the lake, or a bunch of dolphins as well as your fish) and then keep the ones that match your search, throwing the rest away.

            • by JimFive (1064958)

              Trolling is fishing with a dragline (never heard of that before),

              I just wanted to point out that internet trolling is based on this definition. Trolling on the internet is tossing some bait out there and trying to get people to bite. A good troll will be taken seriously by enough people to make it funny to the troller (and amused bystanders).
              --
              JimFive

              P.S. If your "never heard of that before" was sarcastic just ignore this entire comment.

      • It sounds like a service that's just asking to be trolled.

        Like other user said, I guess you could also "troll" your friend by calling police lines and telling them your friend is suicidal or "troll" your neighbor by calling firetrucks to his house.

        Just because it's internet doesn't mean you can do whatever you want and there are no consequences.

        • by EdIII (1114411)

          Just because it's internet doesn't mean you can do whatever you want and there are no consequences.

          Yeah. That only happens in Las Vegas.

        • Just because it's internet doesn't mean you can do whatever you want and there are no consequences.

          Be that as it may it doesn't stop a lot of people from acting otherwise [penny-arcade.com].

        • by JimFive (1064958)

          Like other user said, I guess you could also "troll" your friend by calling police lines and telling them your friend is suicidal or "troll" your neighbor by calling firetrucks to his house.

          Except, of course, that those things are illegal. Reporting a post as suicidal on facebook, not so much.
          --
          JimFive

      • by EdIII (1114411)

        Trolling may be the least of their problems.

        There have been people that called 911 because McDonald's was out of McRibs.

        I can see a lot of Farmville users calling up the service because of some natural disaster that happened on their farm, or some trophy went missing......

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ackthpt (218170)

      It's one of those things where the massive size of Facebook can be used for real good. There are already existing hotlines but I doubt they work that well preventing suicides. While they are useful, they aren't shown to people exactly when they really need it. They might know about them, but there's no incentive to try them at those moments. So when Facebook asks it good moment, it could easily save many lifes. Since this still needs the user to agree, it can't be used for harassing people either. If it was automatic it would be stupid, but this way it's only useful.

      So overall, really good option.

      Good PR, which is something Facebook needs.

      "I'm feeling very depressed."

      "OK, let's start with why you are feeling depressed.

      "Facebook has been spying on me and selling all my personal details, while the founder will be a billionaire, all I get it tonnes of spam and annoyances.

      "um..."

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        "um...how about we bump your friend count up to 250?"

        "WOW! that'd be great. I feel better already."

    • sounds like a bad thing.

      this is akin to medical info about yourself. once this is attached to your so-called 'perm record' (this phrase has new dark meaning, way beyond the fear it put on us in our school days) you'll never get it off (fully) and you can expect it to haunt you the rest of your life.

      everything you do is 'recorded' in today's world. you have to think very carefully if you want this or that recorded about yourself.

      this sounds like a really bad idea. then again, 100% of things from FB are ba

      • Good question. Are there other issues like HIPAA that need to be considered? What about councilor training? Do they have the correct relationships with local police, fire, hospital?
    • I agree but not sure if it will do any good.
      I do not think even friends are all that likely to really believe that a friend is going to actually go through with a suicide no matter how emo they are acting.
      And form what I have seen 50% of all high schoolers cut their wrists all the time so I could see either there being a lot of false positive or no understanding until it is too late.

      But it is not like this is going to make it worse, seems like a worthy undertaking by FB.

    • Why, oh why is it a good thing?

      We are allowed less freedoms every day, and if you want out, we are even going to be denied that?

      Everything is illegal. You can barely do anything without the approval of a government and/or bank. And if you are sick of it, it's not even legal to kill yourself!

      Let the motherfuckers die in peace.

      • Why, oh why is it a good thing?

        We are allowed less freedoms every day, and if you want out, we are even going to be denied that?

        Everything is illegal. You can barely do anything without the approval of a government and/or bank. And if you are sick of it, it's not even legal to kill yourself!

        Let the motherfuckers die in peace.

        Hey idiot! Suicide is no longer illegal!

    • Not sure if song lyrics; Or about to kill themselves [imgur.com]

      I coach a college club team and have numerous of them added to my Facebook (in their own little partitioned group). 95% of the time they're being "depressed" it's just some song lyric. I hope there is a quick google lyrics search before deciding to suggest this service.

  • ...they'd stop changing the interface every week to something people hate even more than the last time they changed the interface the week before.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      ...they'd stop changing the interface every week to something people hate even more than the last time they changed the interface the week before.

      Oh, I dunno. I get a vigourous respiratory workout with shouting expletives at them while pounding on my keyboard. Good for the cardio-vascular and all.

    • by sapgau (413511)

      Came for the obvious fb suicide remark...

      mod up +1

    • Meh. Seeing people bitching about new Facebook layouts is quite entertaining. In fact, it's the highlight of my week. If they took that away from me I just don't know what I'd do...
  • I can't wait until completely sane people get formed ("Form 1") over this. Fantastic!

  • Seriously, Facebook should be more worried about Web 2.0 suicide ...

    • Yeah... has anyone noticed that people have STOPPED POSTING PHOTO ALBUMS on Facebook? What's up with that? I've stopped too. I think Facebook is on the outs if their most popular feature behind wall posts has almost completely disappeared ( at least from my friends list).

      • I constantly get new photos from my friends. Maybe you need new and more interesting friends.
        • You might get loads of photos in your feed. I do as well. But do you get photo albums in the same number as you used to, say, one year ago?

          • During summer and little after that, yes I got. Now it's middle of December so it's understandable that there really isn't much happening. Now it's mostly from people traveling or living overseas.
          • by geekoid (135745)

            you mean, as more people join, it approaches some peak where pretty much everyone you know who will join, has joined?

            shocking.

  • Just sign up everyone who is a member of the 'Indianapolis Colts Fan Club' group
  • by Tufriast (824996) * on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:12PM (#38357740)
    Honestly, I do not see why a social network has not done this in the past. I had this idea that perhaps Doctors could get help to people on social networks via this means - at least schedule appointments. $0 cost and doctors might be able to get some new patients. Forums are around that do this, but its not like FB. Scope is what they have on the table. As long as the chat messages are secure, I think we could see a lot more philanthropic work hitting social networks. How about donations to the Red Cross or any organization via FB?
    • by Bios_Hakr (68586)

      No. See, you aren't thinking like a lawyer. You can patent something IRL. Then get another patent for the same thing by adding "on a computer". Then, get a third patent by saying "on the internet". Maybe a fourth by saying "on a social network".

  • You can recommend people for suicide counselling on Facebook now. Lulz ho!

    • by phooky (645)

      There is also a number you can call to send the fire department to your neighbor's house. Welcome to the internet! Lulz ho. Please try not to be a sociopathic asshole.

      • I'm not going to troll innocent users myself, I was merely pointing out how ripe for abuse this system is

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        There is also a number you can call to send the fire department to your neighbor's house.

        And then pay the bill if there wasn't a fire... This thing can be easily abused.

  • Is this some use of the word troll I don't know or does TFS (and TFA) mean trawl?
    • Troll is pronounced the same as trawl. I always thought I was trolling for fish when I was a kid, when all that time I was trawling. I'm pretty sure troll is just a bastardization of the word trawl, since the purpose of it is to catch responses and emotions from other people.

      • No. They are not pronounced the same way. Troll has and 'o' sound. Trawl has an 'aw' sound.
    • by bws111 (1216812)

      Trolling is fishing with a line hanging off a moving boat. You only catch fish that bite. Trawling is fishing by dragging a net. You catch everything. Trolling is correct in this context.

  • If they had gone with an algorithm, all they'd manage to create would be an emo-kid detector. Better to rely on real-world people to provide the red flags in this case. Props to Facebook for implementing something like this.
  • ...It will be hijacked by organizations that will try to sell goods and services to depressed people. About, say, tomorrow.

  • The summary suggests that people on facebook have a life. Really? If they do, why are they on facebook?
  • Myspace was here RIP.

    http://www.myspace.com/800273talk [myspace.com]

  • Maybe if they change that we could save lots of misunderstanding! [tumblr.com]
  • DontJumpVille

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @06:10PM (#38363288)

    I am addicted to opiates, this year I first lost the love of my life to suicide, then my best friend to an OD, then my grandma to a stroke and finally my dad's cancer has come back, this time metastizing. My life is a complete trainwreck right now, but I cannot inflict this kind of pain onto the people who love me and care about me - so yeah, best facebook related news in a long time. If you find yourself holding a gun to your head while already having the syringe with a 100mg dose of Ultiva pressed to your vein standing on a bridge with a rope around your neck like me half a year ago, just wanting to die so bad... Think about the other lives you are about to fuck up and do the only thing even remotely able to help your situation: cry out for help! Talk to somebody! Anyone! I am 25 and don't know how I will ever be able to smile again, but suicide is just the cruelest action you could ever take against the people loving you.

    Hell, if you need somebodY to talk and noone else is there, email me at neofaschistoide underscore banane at web dot de

    Just don't do it, please! I am still completely ripped apart inside a year after she died :/

  • So I can troll my friends by telling Facebook I think they might be suicidal and get the counselors to go 'Please, don't kill yourself' on them.

    Its gonna be a blast.

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