Facebook User Posts Fake Suicide Note, Ends Up In Psychiatric Hospital

It's not often that Facebook rolls-out features I consider to be useful, but it's hard to argue that suicide-prevention features it launched last month are good, or are at least backed by good intentions. The easiest-to-use feature is to flag a post as being made by a suicidal person, at which point Facebook will contact the person at next login, and offer them ways to get help. If the situation is dangerous, Facebook might decide to contact the person's local police.

That's all fine and dandy, but people must realize that these features aren’t meant to be abused. A San Mateo man learned this the hard way; he threatened to hang himself on his Facebook wall, at which point someone (a person he didn't even know that well) flagged the post as suicidal. Even though he was making up his desire to kill himself, he was arrested and put into a psychiatric institution for three days to be monitored.


This man, and I'm sure many others, argue that suicide prevention should be left up to family and friends, but that's something I can't personally settle on too easily. Sometimes, those at risk are not even that open with their own family, or part of the reason for their depression is because of their family. What I do know, though, is that it's ridiculous for a 48-year-old man to treat a suicide-prevention feature like a game.

This feature is sure to be debated for some time to come, and both sides of the argument will be able to raise legitimate points. I believe it's one of those things where there's simply no way to please everyone, and no way to definitively classify it as a good or bad thing. It'll be interesting to see what Facebook's next move will be; it could be that it will do nothing at all and leave the feature in tact. What do you believe it should do?