Facebook Is Actually Working To Prevent Suicide, Social Media Isn't Just For Likes And Comments

Facebook Is Actually Working To Prevent Suicide, Social Media Isn't Just For Likes And Comments

Artificial intelligence is saving lives while we scroll.
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As individuals grow more and more dependent on social media as a form of self-expression and catharsis, new concerns continue to arise surrounding the kind of material people are putting online. One area of growing concern is content related to mental health crises.

As of 2017, Facebook has implemented a new system that automatically identifies and flags posts that express suicidal thoughts. Once posts are flagged, content reviewers are alerted and analyze the posts in question.

This is a step up from the system Facebook previously had in place: users could report alarming content to Facebook employees who would evaluate it and decide whether a person should be offered support from a suicide prevention hotline or, in extreme cases, have Facebook's law enforcement response team intervene.

Facebook's new system is pioneering the many ways artificial intelligence can be used to save lives online. Posts that express suicidal ideation are automatically flagged and sent to the company's review board.

There are currently over 7,500 staff members reviewing cases like these. The company educates its staff by reaching out to experts in the field of suicide prevention like Dan Reidenberg, executive director of SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education,) who started out by distributing a list of phrases commonly used by individuals at risk of suicide.

The technology itself is widely impressive. In one example, the company details how posts like "If I hear this song one more time, I'm going to kill myself," won't be flagged, but posts that involve the subtleties of suicidal thought will be.

In the month of November alone, over 100 wellness checks were administered by first responders based on the new system. As of 2018, Facebook says that the revamped program is flagging 20 times more cases of suicidal thought than before, with twice as many individuals receiving suicide prevention support materials through the platform.

As the reach of social media gets wider and wider, there are growing opportunities for both harm and help available to the masses that utilize these platforms on a daily basis. With numbers of lives in the hundreds being saved by the quick detection of artificial intelligence, it's safe to say that smart technology paired with a finger on the pulse of a growing global health crisis has potential we all deserve to see.

Cover Image Credit: Every Pixel

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The Future For Those Living With HIV Has Never Looked As Hopeful As It Does In This Very Moment

The next few years appear to be promising ones full of purpose towards finally eradicating the infection from the human populace.

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The past few days have seen momentous progress in the worldwide fight against HIV with the 30th anniversary of World AIDS day on December 1st, 2018. Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the 1970s, over 70 million people worldwide have been infected with the malady, culminating in approximately 35 million deaths. However, the tally for today's treatment of the disease shows a far more hopeful outcome, with 37 million living despite carrying HIV and 22 million in treatment.

Recent advances in medical science and technology have lead to the proliferation of easily accessible testing procedures, a plethora of treatments including drugs such as Abacavir (a nucleoside analog reverse-transcriptase inhibitor that is utilized in conjunction with other treatments to reduce the spread of HIV throughout the blood), and pre-exposure prophylaxis as preventative measures have become readily available to many vulnerable communities to help stem the tide of infection on an international scale.

The fight against HIV has been fraught with a host of preventative and treatment plans including clinical trials of antiretrovirals (ARVs) introduced in 1985. Since HIV works by utilizing a reverse transcriptase mechanism — in effect, turning its own viral RNA into DNA — in order to integrate itself into a host cell to mass produce its desired product and thereby infect neighboring cells until an entire tissue area and body system becomes affected, reverse transcriptase inhibitors such as antiretrovirals are increasingly essential in their ability to limit HIV's ability to latch onto a host body and bind properly, thereby reducing its potential to spread and develop into full-blown AIDS.

By 1995, these various ARVs were proclaimed as a major breakthrough in the fight against the AIDS epidemic and were celebrated as a deadly combination to the fatal illness at the 11th International AIDS Conference in Vancouver.

Soon after this development, the WHO announced a "three by five" initiative focused on providing high-quality HIV treatment to approximately three million patients in low- and middle-class regions by the year 2005. It was the largest global public health initiative ever launched at the time, and it increased the number of people who were able to receive access to affordable life-saving treatment by 15-fold within a mere three-year period.

Since then, the WHO has announced a "90-90-90" target plan intent on ensuring that by 2020, approximately 90% of all people living with HIV would know of their status, 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV would receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of those who received this therapy would be able to achieve viral suppression and subsequent recession of their symptoms.

While the Global Public Health initiatives of the world, including the World Health Organization of the United Nations, have made astounding progress in their conflict against HIV/AIDS, the next few years appear to be promising ones full of purpose towards finally eradicating the infection from the human populace.

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A Letter You'll Never Receive

Something I wish you could read today.

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There are many experiences every person faces in their lives that make them who they are today. Most times, it is the challenging ones that bring us closer to finding out more about ourselves, and who we plan to define ourselves as.

On December 10th, 2016, I lost a friend to suicide. It was the rawest emotion I had ever experienced in my life, and I thought the numbing pain would never subside due to the loss of someone so important to me. Fortunately, over the past two years, I have learned coping strategies in order to make myself feel closer to him in a positive way rather than negative.

I decided to write myself letters addressed to him in order to show the progression of my time coping with the loss. This is what I wrote him the night I found out he passed away, along with another letter I am writing almost two years after.

December 12th, 2016

Dear Josh,

You've ruined me. You took your life and it has torn me up in ways no one will ever even begin to understand. You're all I can think about. Did you do this because of me? Because of your family? What happened? I thought I knew you. My brain is fried from wondering where your life went wrong. What drove you to do this to yourself? Do you know how many people miss you?

I didn't cry when I found out you died. I physically couldn't. Now, I can't stop crying, thinking about how I could've saved you.

I wish I had just asked you what was wrong. If I had, I could've pulled all that hate from your heart and turned it into something better. The worst part is, I'll NEVER be able to talk to you ever again. This isn't like we had a fight and I intended to never speak to you again.

You are dead.

I'll never be able to hear your voice again, or your laugh, or your anything. This is the worst night of my life. I know it sounds selfish, but this has taken such a toll on me. I keep thinking this is all a joke, but it's not. You're gone, and there's nothing I can do about it now. This doesn't feel real. I should be talking to you right now, trying to help you. Why didn't you ask for help? I can't think anymore.

- Emma

November 27th, 2018

Dear Josh,

It is so hard to believe it's been almost two years without you. I still long to hear your voice sometimes, listen to your laugh, watch you smile, you get the gist of it. The pain hasn't gone away, but it is so much easier to hear your name today. I talk about you sometimes, but I try to tell people about all the things I admired about you, instead of what ended it all. I tell people about how hard you worked for what you wanted, what your dreams were, your amazing sense of humor that never got old, etc.

I also learned more about what happened, and partially about what may have influenced you to do what you did. The hardest thing I had to realize when you passed was that, whatever I could say to try and help you, would never have amounted to what you were going through.

I do wish that someone or something could've saved you, but I have to live in reality and stop thinking about the what if's. Every day I'm getting better, and while you aren't with me here on earth, you're still in my heart, no matter what.

- Emma

While I am still finding ways to cope with my loss, hopefully, this display of transition from the person I was two years ago to the person I now show people that time really does heal all. If you or someone you know are going through something similar, remember that it is not the end of the world (even if it really feels like it is). The sun will rise again, and so will you.

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