It’s scary to see someone post a suicidal message on Facebook or hear a loved one say they are struggling with the will to live. It can be difficult to know how to even begin helping your loved one, especially when you know it might be a matter of life or death.
Maybe you’ve seen a friend post something on Facebook that concerns you, but you don’t know them well enough to know if the threat is truly suicidal. In a situation like this, it is best to not take any chances. Facebook has created a new suicide prevention tool to help you take action.
According to Sarah Schuster at The Mighty, this innovation gives friends and family resources for when they think a loved one needs help. Facebook partnered with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, and Forefront to develop the tool.
When you see a post that concerns you, you can click on the “click down” arrow of the post like you’d do if you were to report any other content. Select “report post,” and then choose “I think it shouldn’t be on Facebook.” Next, choose “It’s threatening, violent or suicidal.” Another box will appear; click that it is suicidal content. Then on the next screen, a box should come up with a menu of support options. If you think your loved one is in immediate danger, they suggest you call emergency services right away.
If it’s not an emergency, options such as “offer help and support,” “reach out to a friend,” “chat with a trained helper,” or “ask us to look at the post.” This new tool from Facebook is a big step for conversation about mental illness. Although it might not seem like a big step in suicide prevention, it’s a crucial tool for getting people who are struggling the help that they need.
It can be difficult to talk about suicide; however, doing so might just save a life. It’s important to know how to respond if someone comes to you for help, and this can be especially difficult if you are caught off-guard. Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, writes that saying things like “suicide is selfish,” “your life could be worse,” and “you don’t mean that” are actually doing more harm than good. These phrases are dismissive and invalidating, and they can cause more shame in a person who is already feeling pretty horrible.
Instead, Help Guide suggests the following:
- Let the person know you care, and that they aren’t alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.
- Listen. Let the suicidal person unload their despair or anger. No matter how negative the conversation seems, the fact that it exists is a positive sign.
- Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, calm, and accepting. Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.
- Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that their life is important to you.
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, it’s important to reach out. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a 24/7 hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. Find a therapist that can help you, your friend, or your family member work through the dark thoughts towards solutions. Never forget that help is available to help you live your best life.