Scenario: A friend of a friend who you're friends with on Facebook posts an alarming update threatening self-harm. Is it a failed attempt at off-color humor? Is it a case of hyperbole from the school's drama king/queen? Or is it a real cry for help, so out of context in a news feed that you're not quite sure what to do? Taking each other's emotional temperatures can be tricky in the social networksphere--which is why Facebook's new Suicide Prevention feature makes a lotta sense.
Friends can still be responsible without necessarily calling 911 every time they read unsettling posts. If comments-in-question seem ambiguous enough to hold off on urgent intervention, the function will let people throw out lines without making a scene.
Here's how it'll work: If you spot an unsettling post, report it to Facebook simply by clicking on the "report" link next to it. When asked to specify, clicking "harmful behavior" and then "self-harm" will alert Facebook. If Facebook deems the concern legit, the person of concern will then get an email offering resources like suicide prevention hotline numbers and immediate chat sessions with intervention experts.
Ideally, responsibility would be non-negotiable, but because of our increased awareness of young people's mental health concerns, there is also a broader range of issues in the open. Sometimes students need to vent about normal growing pains and pressures -- but where do we cross over from feeling stressed and overwhelmed in the way that most students do during crunch-time to feeling hopelessly buried, clinically depressed, desperate for relief from emotional pain? The Wall Street Journal reports that more and more students are employing disability services for psychological problems — which is a great thing, where healing is concerned ... as long as we're developing independent coping mechanisms along the way.
Half of Us has heaps of resources for pushing through a full spectrum of challenges: eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual abuse, and depression among them. You don't have to wait until you -- or your FB friends — are in dire straits before reaching out. Check out the links below for more info, and spread the word about Facebook's new plan.