Social media has irreversibly changed the way we communicate and access information, from finding out the latest gossip to fueling revolutions around the world. Now that Facebook reaches nearly a billion people worldwide, we must find innovative ways to reach and connect people who may be in emotional crisis when seconds count.
Facebook, Blue Star Families, and VA have collaborated on an important resource to do just that. On Thursday, Facebook announced suicide prevention resources geared toward the unique needs of active duty troops, Veterans, and their families. If a threat or mention of suicide appears in a timeline, users can flag the user as a member of the military community, which will trigger a message with contact information for the Veterans Crisis Line to be sent to the person in distress.
The page will also urge the concerned parties to contact law enforcement to ensure they know they will be responding to a member of the military community in order to tailor their response accordingly.
“Partnering with the community, families, and friends of troops and Veterans is our primary tool to use against suicide and its devastating effects,” said Jan Kemp, VA’s national mental health program coordinator. “Letting Veterans and service members know there is hope and help is crucial, and we’re proud to work with Facebook and Blue Star Families to get this done.”
The reduction of active duty and Veteran suicide cannot be accomplished with technology and social media alone. We must inform ourselves about the warning signs of mental stress and learn to recognize them in the people that matter to us most. This new notification system is just a tool, but it will play a vital role in matching those in crisis with resources designed to help in their moment of need.
In the video above, shot at Facebook’s studio in Washington, D.C., watch Dr. Caitlin Thompson from VA’s Crisis Line, Dr. Vivian Greentree from Blue Star Families, and Dr. Denise Hamlin-Glover from the Wounded Warrior Project talk about key issues affecting military and Veteran families like PSTD and suicide prevention.