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Online suicide risks: will you step up and help?

Never let it be said that Mark Zuckerberg doesn't have a heart. He may think that we are all “dumb f**cks" and consider our privacy to be little more than an inconvenience, but he still has his eye on our mental health.

FbsuicideFacebook just made a deal with the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, enabling people in the US and Canada to report friends whose comments hint at suicidal tendencies. The idea is to catch people in their moments of despair, and offer them a helping hand. If someone is reported by a friend has potentially being at risk, they will immediately receive an email from Facebook offering them the chance to speak with a counsellor from the Lifeline.

What's interesting is that not only will they be given a telephone number to call, but they will also be offered an immediate chat session using Facebook's own chat service, giving them the chance to speak to someone in a different way. Some people may not feel comfortable dealing with someone directly on the telephone. A chat session may give them a safe outlet, enabling them to feel more comfortable baring their soul.

Putting direct access to counselling services on Facebook is a smart idea. The service is sometimes an emotional battlefield, where tensions run high. Break-ups, bullying, and blowups can leave people feeling distraught, and at a low.

In September, Bangalore student Malini Murmu hung herself after her boyfriend announced news of their breakup on Facebook. Last Christmas day, Brighton, UK resident Simone Beck killed herself after posting on Facebook: “Took all my pills, be dead soon, bye bye everyone." Sadly, none of her Facebook 'friends' who were within walking distance did anything to help.

You can report any concerns about Facebook friends who appear suicidal by clicking on this link. It's better to be safe and potentially save a life than to stay silent.

Have you ever had to deal with a friend on Facebook or another social network who has threatened suicide? How did you help? 

Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets




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Danny BradburyDanny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with 20 years' experience. He writes regularly for publications including the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Financial Post, and Backbone magazine. Danny also writes and directs documentaries.

Maurice CachoMaurice Cacho

Maurice Cacho is a Toronto-based journalist mixing his love for tech with a passion for news. He's also CP24's Web Journalist and appears daily on CP24 Breakfast and weekly on the channel's tech show, Webnation, discussing tech news and trends.