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How Facebook is preventing suicides in India

Think Change India
20th Jun 2016
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Social media has come under much flak for alienating people. Several reports have attributed depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies to excessive use of social media. But, here is story of how the life of Varun Malik was saved due to a Facebook post. Last Tuesday, Varun, an IT employee, who slit his wrist, posted a suicide note on his Facebook wall. His friends rushed to his aid on reading the post. Interestingly, on the very same day, Facebook rolled out a suicide prevention feature in collaboration with Deepika Padukone’s The Live Love Laugh Foundation.

Image : Soel Foundation
Image : Soel Foundation

A report in The Times Of India stated that, although the exact reason behind Varun’s suicide attempt was not known, sources said Varun was depressed ever since his mother passed away a year ago. Varun (32), a resident of Gurgaon, who uses social network exhaustively, posted his suicide note along with a picture of his slit wrist moments after the act. Friends who saw his post immediately urged anyone nearby to rush to his aid. They also informed the police.

On the same day, Facebook India announced a suicide prevention feature, similar to ones released earlier for users in the US and UK, that will help Indian users flag posts by their friends where they appear to be struggling with self-harm or suicidal thoughts. “Often, friends and family who are the observers in these types of situations don't know what to do," said Ankhi Das, the public policy director for Facebook in India, South & Central Asia. "They're concerned, but they're worried about saying the wrong thing or somehow making it worse."

In India, Facebook has partnered with two local non-profit organisations, AASRA and The Live Love Laugh Foundation, who will run the helplines where Facebook users will be referred to, if they are in need of assistance. The Live Love Laugh Foundation, partnered with iCall, will run a helpline run out of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, to provide free psychosocial counselling.

Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone, who founded The Live Love Laugh Foundation last year after battling depression and anxiety, said, "Society as a whole needs to be educated about this so that we are sensitized to signs of depression in our friends, neighbours and relatives and can guide them towards expert assistance."

Meanwhile AASRA's 24x7 helpline, that has been operational since 1998, will also be available to those in need. Its director Johnson Thomas explained that the organisation has been working with Facebook for several years on this front. Their research shows that Indians in the age group of 15-45 years constitute the "highest risk age group for committing suicide", mirroring worldwide trends.

The Huffington Post explains how to use Facebook’s Suicide Prevention App. If you spot a post from a friend on Facebook that you think indicates he or she could be thinking about self harm, you can click a little arrow at the top right of the post and click “Report Post.” You will be able to either reach out to the friend directly using the arrow or ask another mutual friend for support. A third option will be to contact either AASRA or The Live Love Laugh Foundation helplines. If you report a friend's post, it will be completely anonymous, said Das. Once Facebook receives a notification of the post, it will get in touch with the Facebook user and suggest ways for them to cope.

Do you have an interesting story to share? Please write to us at tci@yourstory.com. To stay updated with more positive news, please connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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