Facebook and Save.org to Study Suicidal Behaviors

Considering how much of their lives people share with each other on Facebook, it makes sense that people who are suffering from emotional distress might leave clues about their situation on the social network -- and some of these hints could help prevent suicides, provided they’re caught early enough and interpreted correctly.

Towards that end, Facebook has joined forces with Save.org, a non-profit devoted to suicide prevention, to study the Facebook activity of people who committed suicide, according to Bloomberg. By finding behavioral patterns indicative of suicidal thinking, the research may help prompt friends and family intervene to prevent more needless tragedies.

In the Bloomberg report, Save.org executive director Dan Reidenberg (who is also managing director of the National Council for Suicide Prevention) observed that often even close friends and family avoid asking awkward questions because they don’t want to appear invasive. While nothing can substitute for actual dialogue, educating people about warning signs on Facebook can make them more vigilant in general, and therefore more likely to intervene in person.

This isn’t Facebook’s first foray into suicide prevention advocacy, Bloomberg notes. Last year Facebook partnered with Blue Star Families and the Department of Veterans Affairs to create customized suicide-prevention services for military personnel, veterans and their families. In 2011 Facebook also created a feature that allows friends who see evidence of suicidal thoughts to click a link and receive information about suicide prevention, including contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and crisis counselors available for live chats.

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1 comment about "Facebook and Save.org to Study Suicidal Behaviors".
  1. Curtis Brubaker from BCAT, llc , January 25, 2013 at 5:58 p.m.
    Even more than suicide... Devise an algorithm which-- on a privacy-compliant basis*-- can monitor the browsing habits of citizens on Google, Facebook, Yahoo & Amazon; the online gaming preferences for XBOX, Nintendo & Sony users; the legal purchasers of guns and ammo by regular folks and their presence at shooting ranges nationally; correlate these data points in a secure base where people can anonymously report out-of-the-ordinary or withdrawn behavior in folks they know, and where medical professionals can do the same but without anonymity... and you have an exceptional, non-invasive "alert" network which could predict Newtown/Aurora type conditions before they catalyze into tragedies, yet still enable the fair unprejudiced computer-generated monitoring of individuals to a predetermined point of human intervention. Couple this with advanced sensing technologies which can identify the presence of weapon types and their registrations in scanned public spaces, and you have a pair of life-saving innovations all sides can trust and embrace. * where names remain confidential until optimized criteria queues human investigation.