Facebook Teams Up With Save.org To Study Suicide Victims’ Activities Prior To Deaths

By David Cohen 

Facebook continued its efforts on the suicide-prevention front by teaming up with Save.org (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) to study suicide victims’ activity on the social network in the days just prior to their deaths.

Save.org Executive Director and National Council for Suicide Prevention Managing Director Dan Reidenberg told Bloomberg he hopes the collaboration will help family, friends, and social networks better identify warning signs, adding:

Friends sometimes don’t ask important questions for fear of being invasive. If we can see what’s happening, we can train people to look for it.

Reidenberg told Bloomberg it would take one year to gather all of the data.

Facebook Security Policy Manager Frederic Wolens told Bloomberg:

Anything that can decrease the latency between someone needing help and getting help is beneficial. We’re trying to really shorten that period of time, whether it’s Facebook intervening, or that person’s friends, or suicide-prevention organizations.

But Daniel Rosentreter, chief strategy officer of branding firm FutureBrand North America, urged caution, telling Bloomberg:

I would be careful with a program like this, even if it’s for the greater good. (Facebook is) like no other brand because it is so essential to people’s lives. It needs to be careful not to be seen as Big Brother.

Facebook Global Vice President of Public Policy Marne Levine joined U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and other leaders at a press conference last September to announce the release of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s National Strategy for Suicide Prevention study.

The social network also teamed up with Blue Star Families and the Department of Veterans Affairs last May to offer customized suicide-prevention services to veterans, active-duty military-service members, and their families, and it launched an initiative in December 2011 to enable users who see possible suicidal thoughts on their friends’ pages to report it by clicking on a link, after which Facebook would email the friends and encourage them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or engage in live chats with crisis counselors.

Readers: Do you think the effort by Facebook and Save.org will prove to be helpful?