Social media giant Facebook rolled out its suicide prevention service in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Users can report to Facebook when they spot messages that may indicate a friend is at risk. Facebook will then reach out to the reported individual to provide help.

Once the report is received, Facebook will assess the risk of self-harm or suicide. A pop-up window will enquire about their wellbeing and present three methods of assistance: “talking with friend”, “contact a helpline” and “get tips and support.”

Facebook providing help for individuals at risk of chronic depressive mood, self-harm or suicide. Photo: Facebook Safety, via Facebook.

Users who request a helpline in the Hong Kong region will be referred to The Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong through phone, email or text message. The NGO told HKFP that their service is provided in “mostly Cantonese.”

Users who select “tips or support” will be advised to take a deep breath, have a stroll outside, exercise, express creativity through drawing or write down their feelings.

“We have teams working around the world, 24/7, who review reports that come in,” an announcement on the Facebook Safety page read. “They prioritize the most serious reports like self-injury.”

Facebook providing three alternative ways to seek help, namely “talking with friend”, “contact helpline” and receive “tips or support”. Photo: Screenshot from Facebook.

Paul Yip Siu-fai, director of The Hong Kong Jockey Club Centre of Suicide Research and Prevention, told Ming Pao that some students elude to suicidal ideation on social media before taking their own life. He urged netizens not to take signs of people seeking help lightly, while recommending that the public listen to the needs of those in distress and introduce them to professional help.

The Education Bureau set up a committee early this year after receiving over 20 reports of student suicides since September, 2015. A public rally entitled “I want to live” was held in March to encourage young people to treasure life after seven incidents of student suicides were recorded within nine days in the same month. Participants also called for the resignation of Secretary for Education, Eddie Ng Hak-kim.

If you are experiencing negative feelings, please call: The Samaritans 2896 0000 (24-hour, multilingual), Suicide Prevention Centre 2382 0000 or the Social Welfare Department 2343 2255. The Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology provides a WhatsApp hotline in English and Chinese: 6218 1084.

Gene Lin

Gene Lin is a Journalism and Computer Science student at The University of Hong Kong. He worked as a reporter for the 'LIVE: Verified Updates' during the Occupy Central protests. He is also an editor at HKU's first English-language student paper, The Lion Post.