Facebook updates social network with suicide prevention tools

The Facebook logo displayed on a screen in white text on a blue background

Facebook's suicide prevention tools will now be available to users worldwide, after first launching in the US last year, allowing people to help at-risk friends directly.

If a person sees a post by a friend that seems to express thoughts of self-harm or suicide, they can use the tools to anonymously share a list of resources with the person they are worried about, including numbers for suicide prevention organisations, reports TechCrunch. They can also choose to send a message of support (with wording suggested by Facebook).

Users can also report posts to Facebook, whose global community operations team will then review the posts in question and "reach out to this person with information that may be helpful to them," according to the Facebook Help Center.

"The resources we send to the person who posted something concerning will include an expanded set of options," stated a post on the Facebook Safety page about the updated tools. "People can now choose to reach out to a friend, contact a helpline or see tips."

These tools are designed to help save lives, with Suicide.org stating that global suicide rates have increased 60 per cent in the last 45 years. On average, one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds somewhere in the world.

In the UK, suicide rates in men are three times higher than they are for women. However, female suicide rates increased in the UK by 8.3 per cent between 2013 and 2014, and by 14 per cent in England, eight per cent in Scotland, and 15 per cent in the Republic of Ireland.

The female suicide rate in England is at its highest since 2005 and the female suicide rate in the UK is at its highest since 2011, according to the Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report 2016.

Considering the severity of the issue, the Facebook Safety announcement is quick to remind users that using the social media site to reach out to someone at risk may not be enough.

"If you or someone you know is in crisis, it is important to call local emergency services right away," the post states. "You can also visit our Help Center for information about how to support yourself or a friend."