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Facebook adds suicide prevention tool

A tool rolled out by Facebook lets people report suicidal comments posted by friends, who will immediately be sent email messages urging them to call a hotline or click on a link to start a chat session with a crisis counselor.

social media Updated: Dec 15, 2011 02:11 IST

Facebook is providing a new way for US or Canadian members of the leading online social network to summon help for friends who may be thinking of ending their lives.

A tool rolled out by Facebook lets people report suicidal comments posted by friends, who will immediately be sent email messages urging them to call a hotline or click on a link to start a chat session with a crisis counselor.

A National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will provide free, confidential counseling at any time of day.

"We're proud to expand our partnership with Lifeline, and to provide those in crisis with even more options to seek help," Facebook chief security officer Joe Sullivan said in a release.

"The Lifeline's commitment to suicide prevention has enabled people on Facebook to get fast, meaningful help when they need it most, and we look forward to continuing our work with them to help save lives," he added.

Lifeline has partnered with California-based Facebook since 2006, according to the organization's project director John Draper.

"Although the Lifeline on average handles 70,000 calls per month, we have heard from our Facebook fans and others that there are many people in crisis who don't feel comfortable picking up the phone," he said.

"This new service provides a way for them to get the help they need in the way they want it."

Nearly 100 people in the US die daily from suicide, with the annual tally topping 36,000, according to US surgeon general Regina Benjamin.

"For every person who is murdered, two die by suicide," Benjamin said in a statement.

"Facebook and the Lifeline are to be commended for addressing one of this nation's most tragic public health problems."