Sadag satisfied with Facebook's new suicide prevention tool

The new mechanism makes it easier for people to help friends who post messages about suicide or self-harm.

Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) says a new suicide prevention tool on Facebook is a good opportunity to reach the growing number of South Africans battling depression.

Facebook launched the new mechanism on Wednesday, making it easier for people to help friends who post messages about suicide or self-harm.

With the new features, people can flag friends' posts that they believe are suicidal, providing them with a list of resources, including help lines and suicide prevention material, that they can click through to gain access.

The tool starts with a drop-down menu that lets people report posts, a feature that was previously available only to some English-speaking users.

The person reporting a suicide note is then given a menu of options, including the ability to send a Facebook message directly to the friend in distress or to a mutual friend to coordinate help. Facebook will provide a suggested text message to send, or users can fill in their own words.

The person whose message was reported will be presented with a similar list of options the next time that person logs into Facebook and view the news feed, including tips and resources on what to do if the person feels suicidal.

Screengrab illustration of Facebook's suicide prevention tool

Sadag has partnered with the social media network to facilitate the process.

Operations manager, Tracey Feinstien says, "By reporting it Facebook international will link up with the person who posted the wording or the message and they will request and offer them assistance and that will then be sent through to Sadag, by them agreeing that they want some help, it then gives Sadag their approval and permission to actually contact that person in this time of desperate need."

Feinstien says, "The trend is showing worldwide that people do tend to express emotions and the state of how they are feeling on social media platforms and so very often the people who see those messages are then in a very difficult position because they are concerned but they don't know how to help the person."