Grassroots suicide prevention in Facebook

By Anne Collier

A Canadian woman’s effort to keep a San Francisco man from committing suicide is becoming something of a movement on Facebook. Days after Kimberly Furnell of Nanaimo, B.C., created a suicide-prevention Facebook group on June 5, it had 47,000 members, the Vancouver Sun reports. She’d seen a message in the anonymous postcard site that read in part, “I have lived in San Francisco since I was young … I am illegal … I am not wanted here. I don’t belong anywhere. This summer I plan to jump off the Golden Gate.” So she created the group “please don’t jump” “hoping the individual would see it and reconsider, and for anyone who felt as if they did not belong” according to the Sun, which cites the view of an expert as saying that the rapid growth of this group illustrates “how social media can serve as the nexus of deeply emotional and political issues, and how widely used sites such as Facebook are considerably more powerful in connecting people than specialized websites, such as those run by anti-suicide groups.” Activists in suicide prevention, for example at Inspire USA, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Emotion Technology, with whom works strongly agree that support and intervention need to be right at hand on the social Web. Because suicide-prevention experts know from the early days of social networking how powerful peers are as first-responders and life-savers (see this), they are in talks with the most popular social network sites to set up systems for getting the right kind of immediate help to users in suicidal crisis and accurate information to their alert friends. See “A summit for saving lives” and my recent post about

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