Facebook helping prevent suicides in Singapore

Singaporeans now have a new weapon in the fight against suicide: their Facebook accounts.

Facebook Safety announced new suicide prevention measures for the social network site this month.

Under the new measures, Facebook users can flag posts that might indicate suicidal or self-harming thoughts.

Facebook will contact the author of the posts, asking them if they are okay, before referring them to local counselling helplines and offering stress-management strategies.

In Singapore, Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) is Facebook's partner in this effort. It is among the more than 50 organisations worldwide that have partnered with Facebook to implement these measures.

Experts say that this move is especially good in Singapore's context where the younger generation is tuned into social media.

Ms Christine Wong, executive director of SOS, told The New Paper (TNP): "Suicide prevention requires the effort of all members of the community, both online and offline.

"Social media is a powerful tool to reach out to the younger generation, letting them know that it is okay to seek support and help when in need."

Young people are especially at risk of suicide.

Nearly 20 per cent of suicides in 2014 were committed by someone 29 or under.

Dr Elmie Nekmat, Assistant Professor in Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore, welcomed the move.

He said: "Reaching out to someone in distress through social media might help pull them out of their pain and make them think about how to help themselves.''

Reaction among young Singaporeans were mixed.

Claire Soh, 19, a student, said: "It would be comforting to see that someone cares about you and wants to provide some options."

But NSman Kenji Chan, also 19, told TNP that he felt Singaporeans were too impersonal online to share information that might indicate suicidal tendencies.

HELPLINES

If you are having thoughts of suicide or are in emotional distress, these are some of the people you can call for help:

Samaritans of Singapore, a 24-hour helpline: 1800-221-4444

Institute of Mental Health’s Mobile Crisis Service, a 24-hour hotline: 6389-2222

Care Corner Counselling Centre, for Mandarin speakers: 1800-353-5800

Silver Ribbon, for promoting mental health: 6386-1928

Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

Tinkle Friend, for primary school-aged children: 1800-2744-788

kimchiu@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 29, 2016.
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