back to article Facebook sad-nav: How to put depressed chums on internet suicide watch

The signs of future suicide often pop up on social media, so Facebook has partnered with the University of Washington (UW) to roll out new tools that can hopefully provide a lifeline to those in need. "Often, friends and family who are the observers in this situation don't know what to do," said Holly Hetherington, a …

  1. Graham Marsden


    ... isn't this the sort of thing that got The Samaritans into trouble not so long ago?

    1. Remy Redert

      Re: Erm...

      It seems to be the exact opposite. Instead of a machine reading all your friend's posts and giving you a warning if they're feeling depressed/suicidal, which is very much abusable, this is a button YOU can press if YOU think your friend is feeling depressed/suicidal, which prompts Facebook to have a look at that person's recent history and offer help to the depressed/suicidal person.

      This means that there's no machine reading of your posts because your friend signed up to something (Okay, Facebook, there's machine reading of your posts anyways) and your 'friends' aren't be alerted by Facebook. Abusing this feature would be a lot harder because presumably if a malicious party started reporting random/harmless things, they'd just get banned and if you make a fake account under someone's name to make them look suicidal, well, you could already do that just fine, this function doesn't change anything about that.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Captain DaFt

    "Anything you do here will be kept private."

    On Facebook? I'm more than a tad skeptical.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Except your life insurance rates to suddenly sky rocket... Then you'll be really depressed.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Facebook privacy

        The next day the poor sod will start seeing ads for counseling services and sleeping pills...

  3. Anonymous Coward

    I guess it's time to log in and have some depressing fun.

    On second thought, that would require me to have friends that care (and are on Facebook).

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      And before you know it, you'll start getting tons of ads for antidepressants.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'm sure you'll get ads from "random" head hunters for doctors too. Well, maybe not yet, because Facebook hasn't partnered with enough of them (yet, hence the "caring").

        BTW, is this REALLY legal? What if you decided to kill yourself because of something Facebook mentioned? This sort of thing is very creppy, and very intrusive for the almighty dollar.

  4. Anonymous Coward


    So people can just create fake accounts for their worst enemies, fill them with dark, depressing posts, turn them in to the Facebook thought police...

    Yeah - no way this will get abused.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Brilliant

      Except those posts will apply to that account, an account that can easily be flagged as "impersonating me" and be removed without much hassle.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Definitely not a killer feature"

    El Reg triggered me.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: "Definitely not a killer feature"

      The following headline was rejected:

      Don't leave your friends hanging: Suicide alarm bell added to Facebook.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Definitely not a killer feature"

        The rejected headline was funnier. That laugh could of been the one they needed.

        1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: Re: "Definitely not a killer feature"

          That's what I thought, but what do I know? I'm just an idiot with a modem.


          1. Jedit

            "what do I know? I'm just an idiot with a modem"

            Dio, I'm looking for the "Report Suicidal Tendencies" button for this post but I can't find it. Does El Reg really care less than Facebook?

            1. Random Coolzip

              Re: "what do I know? I'm just an idiot with a modem"

              > I'm looking for the "Report Suicidal Tendencies" button

              Now there's a band I haven't heard for a long time!

  6. Sebastian A

    So you share something with your friends

    and the next thing you know some internet quack is poking around your history?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: So you share something with your friends

      Well... maybe not a quack but it is Facebook. Anyone can poke around a bit. Especially if they're targeting ads.

  7. Douchus McBagg


    while the level of disconnect is going to be a curious modifier in an actual suicidal situation, some action has to be better than none?

    but my cynical me just think it's just going to get abused by a load of teens making a pouty face. poor little boo boo's and their "FML, homework" tantrums.

  8. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good idea.

    Having been in the situation, any help is better than no help, even if it saves one person it's a good thing in my book.

    1. The Crow From Below

      Re: Good idea.

      Based on what I have heard through various media outlets, if facebook really wanted to help prevent teen suicides then they should simply shutter their doors and pull the plug.

  10. The Crow From Below

    Is this not just a bit of a facebook social twist on Clippy?

    "{friendname} says that it looks like you are trying to kill your self, would you like some help with that

    - Yes please, I can't go on

    - Please ignore, I am just whoring for attention

    - Please ignore, {friendname} is just being a dick"

  11. Christoph Silver badge

    Hi Gerald, you know that very private message you shared with only the one friend you knew you could really trust?

    Tough luck, he handed over to us.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vast Potential for Abuse

    Your mental health is between YOU and a HEALTHCARE PROFFESSIONAL, no one else.

    Even a well meaning individual can cause a lot of grief with this "suicide prevention" function as people tend to put their own feelings into the equation rather than being objective. One mans "sadness" is anothers "suicidal".

    Imagine if all of a sudden, the police show up at your workplace with an ambulance and take you away for two weeks for a "mental health evaluation", all on the word of some "Wastebooker".

    Yeah, I can see potential for abuse. Most employers would take a dim view of such a pickup by the looney bin. For the record, I ended up there when my wife left me; but I went voluntarily because I knew the signs.

    Isn't there already a phenomonon called "Swatting" where some basement dweller calls out the local police Swat Team on some innocent person? This is an extension of that.

    The whole thing with these Facebook types reminds of the Hitler Youth ratting on their parents.

    None of this nonsense will solve anything and likely make it worse..

  13. x 7

    FFS, Facebook with its virtualised replacement for real human content, through which it allows uncensored untrammeled abuse, bullying, victimisation and exploitation, is one of the major causes of depression and suicide in existence today.

    Essentially its a business model which gains cashflow by exploiting the misery of the sad bastards who have abnegated real live and who instead survive in the misery, mire and malicious mediocrity of Facebooks cynically open leech-like arms. Join Facebook and your brain is mushed, you lose your friends, and become the laughing stock of all who become aware of you.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What if the person doesnt respond......or responds that they are in the process of getting it over with? Does FB send the police or the guys with white scrubs to send you to the funny farm for a 72 hour hold? I would be so pissed at that so-called friend for telling on me instead of BEING A FRIEND.and sending me a cheery post themselves........but then again I HAVE NO FRIENDS so I shouldnt worry about this kind of thing, right?

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