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Facebook has released a new tool to help combat New Zealand's youth suicide problem

June 01 2016 by EAP Services Limited

People expressing suicidal or self-harming thoughts on Facebook are to receive more support thanks to a new tool launched by the social media giant.

The new resource gives users on Facebook links to speak, email or message someone about their mental health. It also offers resources to a person's friends or family who may have seen them posting concerning content. 

Facebook director of policy Mia Garlick said the initiative was about promoting the safety and wellbeing of Kiwis who use the site. "What we have discovered is when people are going through a complicated time they like more options, more information and more choices," she said.

CUSTOMISED FOR NZ USERS

If someone is concerned about a person's post, they can click through to a link that offers a number of ways to help. The resource was originally developed in the United States, but has been updated and customised for New Zealand users with links to Lifeline, The Lowdown, the National Depression Initiative and Youthline. Posts and information will be age appropriate, separated between 13 to 24-year-olds or those over 24.

In 2015, 155 Kiwis aged between 15 to 24 took their own lives. That was down slightly from 2012, when 146 people in the age group committed suicide.  Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said the tools could help put a dent in those figures.

"I am very sure we will start to hear stories people coming through a crisis and recovering from it, and that this Facebook initiative will have been a part of that."

New Zealand's youth suicide rate was "too high", and needed to be addressed, he said.

"I think young people are facing a very complex world, a world no young person has had to experience before. That naturally puts increased pressure on them."

Elliot Taylor,  manager for youth mental health charity Live for Tomorrow, said it was not uncommon for young people to post online about their mental health struggles.

"There is an overwhelming number of posts of young people showing their self-harm on Instagram and Tumblr," he said.

REACTION TO POSTS VARIED

The way in which the online community reacted to concerning posts was varied.

"There are a number of young people who are mental health advocates online who encourage people to reach out for help. There are also sub-pockets of the internet where people are talking about issues of self-harm or eating disorders. These conversations can be harmful in some ways."

Instagram celebrity and youth advocate Liam Miscellaneous said people often found it helpful to voice their mental health struggles on social media.

"I think it is therapeutic to let it out to people. A lot of people say it is attention seeking, I don't think it is. It is the way people feel they can express themselves."

The Warehouse has placed a link on its website so women in abusive relationships can seek help without the risk of their abuser finding out. The portal has information on how to locate the nearest refuge, contact details for help lines and ways of identifying domestic violence. The website does not show up on the user's browser history. Since its launch there had been an "overwhelming" level of positive feedback towards the site since, according to the company.