Creating Hope Through Action for Suicide Prevention and Awareness

By Antigone Davis, Global Head of Safety
  • It’s National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, and the global experts and organizations we work with have made great strides to support communities affected by suicide and self-harm.
  • We’re putting limits on content that doesn’t break our rules but may trivialize themes around suicide, death or depression.
  • We’re releasing a new toolkit to guide conversations about viral suicide challenges.

September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, and people around the world focused on the theme of “Creating Hope Through Action.” We know that this kind of collective action is needed to provide support online and offline for individuals considering suicide or self-harm. It’s part of why, since 2006, we’ve worked with experts around the world to shape our policies, practices and products that support those expressing thoughts of suicide or self-harm on our platform. 

For the past 15 years, these experts have helped Facebook become a space where people can share their experiences, raise awareness about these issues and seek support from one another. Since our last update in 2020, many expert and advocate organizations throughout the world have made great strides in their efforts to support people at risk for or recovering from suicide and self-harm: 

  • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) has trained more than 5,000 military, veteran, health care, teacher, law enforcement and corporate professionals on how to seek mental health resources and support people at risk for suicide and self-harm. Along with launching their new One Step Ahead workplace suicide prevention program, SAVE has distributed more than 2,500 law enforcement suicide prevention guides and launched a series of mental health and suicide prevention videos with Willis Towers Watson, reaching 7.2 million construction industry workers across the country.
  • Australia’s Orygen, Revolution in Mind launched #SafeSpace on this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day. This interactive digital space spotlights real stories shared from young people with lived experiences of suicide. The stories show how recovery is possible, as well as the importance of normalizing conversations around mental health topics. Orygen’s #chatsafe initiative also won Suicide Prevention Australia’s 2021 LiFE Award for Innovation, acknowleding the integral work it’s doing to support safe communication online.
  • Instituto Vita Alere in Brazil has focused on spreading awareness about suicide and self-harm prevention through the power of storytelling. The organization released its third edition of the Suicide Survivors Stories and opened its fourth literary contest for the book’s next edition, encouraging people to share their stories of how they overcame adversity. Vita Alere also recently launched its first suicide prevention course for public security professionals, in partnership with Facebook and the country’s Ministry of Justice. The organization has also run several social media campaigns aiming to raise awareness about mental health and topics like occupation and sexual diversity, as well as how people can safely discuss suicide online.
  • Mentally Aware is helping to increase awareness and support for Nigerians facing mental health distress or suicidal ideation. In addition to sharing educational toolkits, launching #ProjectCOVID during the pandemic and reaching more than 3 million people monthly on social media, Mentally Aware has supported more than 32,000 people through its Crisis Support Centre. The organization has provided more than 6,480,000 life-saving minutes of counselling to those seeking help when considering suicide or self-harm.
  • In Lebanon, Embrace encouraged people to show support for World Suicide Prevention Day with their powerful annual Into The Dawn walk. The silent candle walk of 1 km brought together advocates, survivors and loved ones to collectively unite against the public depiction of suicide and speak up for mental health.
  • Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) has provided support for people directly during the pandemic, through their mobile devices. In October 2020, SOS launched SOS Care Text as an alternative text-based service for emotional support. And earlier this year, SOS launched its new national four-digit hotline number 1-767 (1-SOS) as a 24-hour, toll-free hotline for crisis support, along with a new #PauseBeforeYouPost campaign to help local youths engage in safe and constructive social media conversations with their loved ones and friends who are at risk of suicide.  

How We’re Supporting Our Community

We’ve been tapping into the expertise of organizations like these to improve how we handle discussions of suicide and self-harm on our platform. In consultations our Suicide and Self Injury Advisory Group, we’ve refined our policy for a specific type of content that doesn’t break our rules, but may trivialize themes around suicide, death or depression. Experts agree it’s important we allow these kinds of posts — to make sure people can talk about how they’re feeling and friends and family have the chance to reach out — but that we need to balance this with protecting others from potentially upsetting content. Rather than removing it completely, we’ll aim to not recommend this content in places like Explore on Instagram, making it harder to discover. We hope this helps strike this delicate balance, and we’ll continue to consult with experts as research in this area develops.

We’re also releasing our new Responding to Suicide Challenges toolkit. Developed in partnership with experts, the guide provides resources for parents, educators, youth and media on how to safely discuss viral suicide challenges, understand their impacts and reduce the sharing of challenges online. These resources were developed in partnership with Samaritans UK and 10 of our global suicide crisis response partners, including SAVE, Orygen, Embrace and Spunout, among others. The toolkit is available on the Safety Center resource page and will be available in 20 languages. 

The more we innovate and work together, the better we can support our community. In the year ahead, we’ll continue to improve our technology, policies and partnerships relating to suicide and self-harm, keeping up with the latest research and trends to make our platform a safe and supportive place for everyone. To learn more, visit Facebook’s suicide prevention hub.



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