Facebook is Using Artificial Intelligence to Help With Suicide Prevention

The social media giant is expanding its existing crisis prevention program.

Facebook has announced the addition of new resources — aided by artificial intelligence — to help identify and support at-risk users, specifically those who may be suicidal.

In a post on the Facebook newsroom blog, product manager Vanessa Callison-Burch, researcher Jennifer Guadagno and head of global safety Antigone Davis note, “There is one death by suicide in the world every 40 seconds, and suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15–29 year olds. Experts say that one of the best ways to prevent suicide is for those in distress to hear from people who care about them.”

Facebook already provides suicide prevention tools — rolled out over 10 years ago — such as offering tips on how to find support and the option for users to report posts that contain self-harm or suicide-related content. The company is testing a new tool to aid this process: artificial intelligence. A machine learning algorithm will be taught to spot posts about suicide or self-harm and flag the post — potentially before other users do — so that a human team can determine how to best proceed, and intervene if necessary.

And though AI may help streamline the reporting process, Facebook is also depending on people with specialized knowledge to offer realtime support to users. Users will be able to directly message the organizations Facebook is partnering with, such as Crisis Text Line, the National Eating Disorder Association and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Facebook is also offering suicide prevention tools for Facebook Live. Users can report videos, and the person sharing the video will be given on-screen resources, such as how to contact a helpline or the option to reach out to a friend.

As perhaps the predominant social networking service, Facebook recognizes they are in a “unique position” to leverage these connections to provide support to the many people in need, and in the process, help destigmatize the conversation about mental health and suicide.

Read the entire post here.