Facebook launches suicide alert system

Facebook’s launched a scheme in the UK to let worried users sound the alert if they think one of their friends may be suicidal.

The move follows several high profile cases in which Facebook users have told the world before killing themselves. One such was Simone Back, who told her 1,048 Facebook friends that she’d taken an overdose; while several posted sarcastic comments in reply, not one raised the alarm until it was too late.

Now, people concerned about a friend will be able to tell the helpline charity The Samaritans via Facebook’s Help Centre. Here, they can report the content – such as status updates or wall posts – that’s got them concerned. Facebook will then put Samaritans in touch with the friend.

“As a friend you are better placed to know whether someone close to you is struggling to cope or even feeling suicidal,” says Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of Samaritans.

“We want to remind people that if a friend says that life isn’t worth living, they should always be taken seriously. Facebook is a part of daily life for so many of us and we must make sure that people online have support when they need it.”

There’s no word on whether the suicide watch will be extended to other countries, and this will of course depend in part on whether there are any suitable organizations to partner.

But Facebook’s increasingly trying to be a good Samaritan itself, recently announcing that it was teaming up with Amber Alerts to try and help find missing children.

It’s also joined forces with teen heart-throb Justin Bieber and MTV’s A Thin Line to work against cyberbullying and online stalking.