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Image: University of Washington video
Image: University of Washington video

A collaboration between Facebook and researchers at the University of Washington has been launched to get help to those who post what may be suicidal thoughts on the social network.

FacebookSuicideReportingAt its fifth annual Compassion Research Day in Menlo Park, Facebook and Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention — an organization based in the UW’s School of Social Work — announced they have been working together to provide online resources and support to potentially suicidal people.

Among other things, Forefront says Facebook joined with it and other mental health experts to improve reporting of, and responses to, suicidal posts. If a post is flagged, the person reporting it will see a series of screens suggesting he or she contact the person, another Facebook friend or a trained professional at a suicide helpline.

For the person thought to be in distress, Facebook can provide coping strategy videos from an online program started by a Forefront research scientist the next time that person logs in.

The objective is to provide guidance to both those who may be having suicidal thoughts and their friends or family members.

“In the world of suicide prevention, we know that being connected is a protective factor,” notes Edwina S. Uehara, dean of the UW School of Social Work. “People are on Facebook 24/7, so there’s an opportunity to actually connect a suicidal person with someone they have a relationship with. Facebook is extremely proactive in what they’re trying to do.”

More details of how the effort works are included in a video released by the UW.

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