Suicide Prevention Tools Developed By SAMHSA and Facebook

By John Lavitt 04/27/15

The Suicide Safe app aims to provide information and resource options to patients.

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Both the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Facebook have developed parallel suicide prevention tools to take advantage of new technological opportunities. The goal is to optimize the help that can be provided by mobile technologies and social networking. While SAMHSA has developed a mobile phone app for treatment providers, Facebook has expanded the help offered on their social media platform.

Available as a free download, SAMHSA launched the Suicide Safe mobile app in March 2015. Providing both information and resource options to patients, Suicide Safe also allows treatment providers to evaluate suicide risk, review case studies, and identify treatment options. SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde explained that, “Suicide Safe is a major step forward in suicide prevention. The app gives behavioral and primary health care providers an essential and modern prevention tool at their fingertips.”

In a parallel development, Facebook has expanded its social networking protocols for identifying individuals at risk. Beyond the social network’s initial prevention program that allowed users to report threats of self-harm or suicide, the new protocols recommend that such content be reported directly to emergency services. In addition, Facebook now forwards the flagged content directly to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Facebook released a public statement about the evolution of the new protocols, “We worked with mental health organizations Forefront, Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and others on these updates, in addition to consulting with people who had lived experience with self-injury or suicide. One of the first things these organizations discussed with us was how much connecting with people who care can help those in distress.”

Facebook plans to roll out the new suicide prevention features in the United States by the end of the summer. The SAMHSA Suicide Safe app is currently available as a free download on Apple and Android devices. As Facebook continues its roll out, it is presumed that they will be providing a direct link to the SAMHSA app as a resource.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.