CHENNAI: I think I want to end it. Oh god, me too. But I don’t think I have the guts. (Pause) Want to jump off a bridge together? That’s ‘cyber suicide’ speak.
Two strangers meet up on a suicide-prone forum and decide to give each other moral support to finish what they started. And if you thought GenY in desi-land was exempt of these private chatroom conversations, you’re ‘dead’ wrong. Says Lakshmi Vijayakumar, the founder of SNEHA Suicide Prevention Centre in the city, “The number of cyber suicides among urban youth has seen a surge in the last five years.”
So Facebook’s introduction of an anti-suicide tool in India on Tuesday is perhaps a timely intervention. Henceforth any post with indication of suicidal intent or self-injury will be flagged and provided a speedy re-direct to help. This includes a helpline number, a ‘contact a friend’ option or simply a few feel good tips, which will pop up on the screen, when triggered by a distressed post.
“Socially, mental illness and thoughts about suicide are not something we talk about. Facebook is a place where people connect and share, and one of the things we have learnt from the mental health partners and academics we have worked with, is that being connected is a protective factor in suicide prevention,” says Ankhi Das, Public Policy Director, Facebook India, South and Central Asia. “If someone is struggling with depression, these tools help connect them with someone they already have a relationship with.”
To customise the initiative that is already running in the US and the UK, FB has tied up with local collaborators, AASRA, an NGO that works to prevent suicide in Mumbai and Deepika Padukone’s Live, Love Laugh Foundation in Bengaluru. Deepika, who went public with her own depression before she started the foundation last year had said, “Society as a whole needs to be educated about this so that we are sensitised to signs of depression.”
And here is where the ‘Help a Friend in Need Guide’ comes in. Apart from identifying someone in distress, it will offer suggestions on what to say and most importantly, how to reach out without fear of making the situation worse. The guide will be available in English, Hindi, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and Marathi.
Don’t go looking for this material in your FB search bar though. You won’t find it that easily. “These resources have been integrated into the Support section of FB and will only pop up when you vent distress. But you can access it if you have a friend you want to help,” says Johnson Thomas, founder of
“Forums that encourage suicide not only cater to these conversations, but provide specific directions on how to go about it and even follow up with people who ‘don’t go through with it.” adds Lakshmi.