Facebook Enhances Its Suicide Prevention Outreach, Adds Services For Vets And Military Personnel

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Facebook’s role as a social network for close to one billion people can be a weighty responsibility, and today the company took one more step in the kind of social outreach activities that befit a company with that kind of audience. It has formed a new partnership with Blue Star Families and the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a special set of services aimed at vets and other military personnel, to help prevent suicide.

Engineers at Facebook have developed a special solution, the company says, that will be able to identify military families and military personnel on the social network. What it will mean is that when friends and families of those military people report harmful or suicidal content, posters of that content will receive information specifically related to crisis services for U.S. military people.

These will include links to services such as the Veterans Crisis Line, where people can communicate with people by phone, online chat or text messaging to talk through their issues and get further help. This will further enhance existing services that Facebook offered for suicide prevention outreach, which let people report/flag potentially suicidal content posted by a Facebook contact. That reporting triggers an email to the poster with support information from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Creating services targeting military personnel are significant on two levels for Facebook. For one thing, the social network has very high usage among military families — some 86 percent of military families that are on Facebook say they use it daily. For another, there is almost as high an incidence of suicide contemplation among families of military people are there are among military people themselves: respectively, 10 percent and nine percent of them have considered suicide, according to a new survey from Blue Star. Altogether there are some 2.2. million military families in the U.S.

As Facebook continues to gear up for its IPO, the company has been making other moves to enhance its social responsibility profile. These have included an initiative to encourage organ donation by letting users identify themselves as organ donors.

The company will host a Facebook Live event tomorrow at 3PM EST with Blue Star Families, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Wounded Warrior Project to talk more about this new development and the wider issue, as part of Military Appreciation Month, it says.

[photo: WisGuard Pics, Flickr]