Suicide Prevention For Military Personnel And Family Via Facebook
May 10, 2012

Suicide Prevention For Military Personnel And Family Via Facebook

Connie K. Ho for

Facebook recently announced that it would offer veterans, active duty service members, and their families military-specific suicide prevention information. This new development follows Facebook´s announcement of an organ donation initiative a week ago. The suicide prevention information is provided through a partnership between Blue Star Families and the Department of Veteran Affairs.

With the potential of social networking, more and more non-profit organizations are looking to work with Facebook. According to Inside Facebook, the organization implemented a method for people to report possible suicidal content from fellow users last December. The user who posted the content would then receive an email from Facebook, advising them to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline or to participate in a private chat session with a crisis worker.

A survey by Blue Star Families found that 10 percent of military family members have contemplated suicide and nine percent of service members have considered suicide.

“Military families are very strong and capable,” remarked Meg Harrell, a representative of the Center for a New American Security, in a panel discussion that was featured in a Stripes article. “They are not a needy group of families, but they are willing to accept help.”

The survey also showed that 86 percent of the participants use Facebook on a daily basis; as such, the social networking site was a perfect fit to help the Blue Star Families in this new suicide prevention initiative.

"Honestly, Facebook is my lifeline," noted Erin Whitehead, a Blue Star Families' member, in an article by PC Mag. "The friendships I have made with spouses all over the world on Facebook keep me plugged in to an amazing network of spouses who I can call on day or night. In social media, the milspouse community has found an invaluable resource — the ability to keep an intimate friendship with the people with whom you have shared some of the toughest times–no matter where the military sends you."

For the new initiative, Facebook´s engineering team created a customized solution to determine military personnel and their family members. Users who report content that´s harmful or suicidal will be directed specific information on crisis services for the military. Blue Star Families hopes that the initiative will help military personnel and their family members keep open lines of communication.

"Today, we along with Facebook and the Department of Veterans Affairs are proud to announce that the Facebook military crisis content is live," commented Stephanie Himel-Nelson, director of communications for Blue Star Families, in a blog post that was featured in the PC Mag article. "As a result, friends and families with concerns about veterans, active duty service members and military family members will receive specific information about crisis services for our nation's military including The Veterans Crisis Line“¦ The Veterans Crisis line connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders via phone, online chat or text messaging."

On May 10, Facebook will host a live discussion about the new plan at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Representatives from Blue Star Families, the Department of Veterans, Facebook, and the Wounded Warrior Project will be available to answer questions. Those who have questions can post them on the Facebook event´s wall section.