Facebook launches tools to help mental health sufferers

You see a friend’s post on a social networking site that quietly worries you: they haven’t been themselves lately. You see that lately they’ve been posting that life hasn’t been going their way, they seem like they’re down a lot of the time, or they might be saying they just want to give up.

It’s a tricky position to be in, as a friend you will want to help but navigating the boundaries of different relationships on social networking sites may mean getting in touch with that person directly is not always an option.

Facebook will soon roll out a new feature giving New Zealanders access to services designed to support those who may be suffering from the effects of poor mental health.

Users of the social networking site are able to flag a friend’s post if they see a someone has posted a comment which could be indicate he or she might be struggling with self-harm or depression.

The alert, which is already available in the US, UK and Australia, will give people a range of tools which include; being able to message a friend, contact a help line or get other tips and support.

Nearly 3 million New Zealanders are active on the social networking site every month with many of them regularly sharing details of their personal lives.

According to Facebook spokesperson Mia Garlick, the way people use Facebook means it’s well placed to help people when they are experiencing a low.

Staggering statistics show that New Zealand currently holds the second highest rate of youth suicide in the OECD.

Alongside this, we’ve got approximately half a million people who’ve been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

The reaction to the new feature has been largely positive among some mental health professionals. Elliot Taylor, manager of youth group Zeal’s mental health project said he thinks what Facebook is doing is great but spreading the net wider might catch young people using other social networking sites.