Facebook users can share almost anything on the social network, from interesting news stories to silly GIFs, and sometimes their darkest thoughts. For several years, Facebook has offered concerned friends a way to flag posts that indicate suicidal moods or the potential for self-harm, via a clunky web form. The platform vastly improved on this last year by adding the flagging mechanism to the existing "Report Post" menu (accessible in the drop-down at the top right corner of any post). The new reporting tool debuted in the US originally and after being rolled out in Australia a few months ago, is now available to UK users.
Within the "Report Post" menu, Brits will now see an option to flag anything they perceive as a cry for help. Facebook recommends you call emergency services if you believe there's an immediate threat, but otherwise prompts you to reach out to the person in question, message another friend to share your concerns, or talk to professionals about ways to offer support. You can also ask Facebook to check the post, and an internal team will look into it as a priority.
The next time the friend in question logs into their account or loads up the Facebook app, they'll be notified that someone is worried they may be going through a rough time of it. They'll be asked whether they want to reach out to a friend or a helpline worker, and offered tips to help deal with whatever's affecting them. Facebook has partnered with the Samaritans on the rollout of these suicide prevention tools in the UK, with the charity volunteering their services to any party that wants to talk about self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
The Samaritans built its own tool that flagged worrying tweets a few years ago, if you remember, but had to pull it after realising it might do more harm than good. Facebook's reporting system isn't foolproof either, mind, but depression and similar mental health conditions are no joke. If the new tool helps any UK user get through a particularly rough patch, then it was worth the wait.