On Monday, federal health officials and military officers announced the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, which relies on Facebook, mobile applications and other health IT tools to identify and reach out to at-risk individuals, Reuters reports (Heavey, Reuters, 9/10).
The strategy -- which was prepared by the U.S. Surgeon General and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention -- aims to save 20,000 lives over the next five years, particularly among at-risk populations such as U.S. military veterans and young adults.
Strategy Emphasizes Health IT
The strategy states, "Technology is changing the way we communicate, and the pace at which new communications tools are introduced continues to accelerate." According to the strategy, tools that can be applied to suicide prevention "include interactive educational and social networking websites, email outreach, blogs, mobile apps, and programs using mobile devices and texting."
In addition, the strategy notes that other suicide prevention efforts currently under development include virtual worlds, gaming and text analysis (Versel, MobiHealthNews, 9/11).
Cheryl Sharp -- a special adviser on trauma-informed services at the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare -- said the strategy's emphasis on technology could benefit individuals who are less likely to seek treatment in-person but are comfortable seeking help online (Reuters, 9/10).
Strategy Highlights Facebook Tools
As part of its emphasis on technology, the initiative promotes a Facebook service that relies on an individual's network of friends to report suicidal comments, triggering outreach to that person (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/10). Since December, Facebook has offered live, confidential chat sessions with trained suicide counselors.
Marne Levine -- Facebook's vice president for global public policy -- said, "Social networks give us a unique opportunity to save lives," adding, "We're working to create tools on Facebook which connect to other mechanisms of help that go beyond the Web" (MobiHealthNews, 9/11).