Photograph by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images.
Facebook on Tuesday launched a new program that makes it easier for anyone expressing suicidal thoughts to get help.
The Associated Press reports that the social-networking giant has added a feature that allows users to instantly connect with crisis counselors through its chat messaging system.
The new service works like so: If a user spots a suicidal thought on a friend's page, he or she can report it to Facebook by clicking a link next to the comment. Facebook then sends an email directly to the person who posted the suicidal comment and encourages the user to call a hotline or click on a link to begin a confidential chat with a counselor.
The company says it won't actively search the site looking for users in danger because doing so would be impractical given the massive number of people on the site every day. "The only people who will have a really good idea of what's going on is your friends so we're encouraging them to speak up and giving them an easy and quick way to get help," Fred Wolens, Facebook's public policy manager, told the AP.
The changes represent the latest step Facebook is taking to make the site safer for its 800 million users worldwide. Earlier this year, the site made changes to allow its users to report bullying, fake profiles, and offensive content.
Yahoo and Google already boast suicide assistance. When someone searches the term suicide, the two search engines provided the number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as the first result.