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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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble; and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time, until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling; whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die," or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you, you are not alone.

If you're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Our World Needs Us To Practice Suicide Prevention Every Day

This needs to be continuous, not just in September.

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September is here, and to correspond with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, a whole week is dedicated to spreading awareness of suicide, educating others about prevention and altering people about the warning signs of suicidal thoughts and tendencies. It also reduces the stigma surrounding the topic, as well as encourages people to both seek resources and support people who may have attempted suicide.

While all of this stuff is awesome to do, this is something that we should be doing every month. Why wait until September to show awareness? Show it every day! Be that friend who is there for someone who may need it the most, be kind to a stranger who may be having a bad day and/or post the number to the suicide hotline everywhere you go. Just be kind to one other; it is very needed, especially today.

Growing up, I didn't have many friends; being on the spectrum made that hard. There were times where I didn't want to be around anymore. I sometimes used to put on an act to let people know that I was okay, even though I wasn't deep down. I didn't even tell my own family that I was being bullied because I used to think it was all my fault. Sometimes I used to think that the world would be a better place if I wasn't there.

I'm here today. I'm engaged to a wonderful guy, attending university, going towards my dreams of writing and being a photographer, and I have amazing friends. I wouldn't have done all of that if I had taken my own life. Just know, guys, that you have so much to look forward to in life. A bad past does not have to mean a bad future. You have so much to live for.

Just know that you are not alone in this world and that there is always hope. If you or a friend are considering suicide, know the warning signs. Call for help, and be there for your friends. Just know that there is always hope out there.

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Other helpful resources:
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
https://www.thetrevorproject.org/
https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/hotline

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