TILT – Therapeutic Innovations in Light of Technology
Ne wInnovations Facebook Takes Bold Steps In Healthcare Samantha Murphy Last month, Facebook took a bold step into the healthcare world and launched a new initiative connecting suicidal users to national hotline crisis counselors at their precise moment of need. This new service adds to a list of prosocial programs incorporated by the social networking giant in 2011 including an aggressive crack-down on hate speech, bullying and anti-gay propaganda. At a time when it seems that not even a month goes by without another journalistic story of a high profile Facebook-announced suicide, this new service hasn’t come a moment too soon. According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are almost 100 suicides a day, and in the past year over eight million people over the age of 18 had seriously considered suicide. 70
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But despite its clear altruistic intent, Facebook’s new service has been met with mixed reviews and perhaps for good reason. Here’s how it is supposed to work: if Facebook users notice that one of their friends has posted a suicidal statement, they may click “report” and notify Admins of the issue. Presumably, this report is quickly screened for legitimacy and then almost immediately, Facebook Admins send the user an email with an invitation to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and a link to a private web chat with one of the Lifeline crisis counselors. At face value, this initiative seems like a step in the right direction. “The science shows that people experience reductions in suicidal thinking when there is quick intervention,” said Lidia Bernik,
associate project director of Lifeline. “We’ve heard from many people who say they want to talk to someone but don’t want to call. Instant message is perfect for that.” Indeed the comfort allowed by communicating via chat is among the online counselor’s most powerful advantages, and for the perpetual ‘netizen’, such as gamers, social media users, and a large percentage of adolescents and teens, crisis counseling by instant message may prove to the best way to “meet them where they are” both literally and figuratively. But not everyone had stars in their eyes and a sigh of relief when they heard the news. Psychologist John Grohol blogged that he was concerned about the “slippery slope” created by the initiative, citing privacy as his primary issue with the plan.