health

Facebook is rolling out mental health support for Australian users.

Image: iStock.

Here in Australia, approximately one in five people will experience a mental illness in each 12-month period.

Six per cent of the adult population is affected by depression, while 14 per cent live with anxiety disorders. Many others are affected by psychotic illnesses, eating disorders, substance abuse disorders and personality disorders.

Raising awareness of the resources and support available to Australians is vital in the management of mental illness and the prevention of suicide — and Facebook’s latest initiative is a great step in the right direction.

Facebook Australia announced the new function on Friday.

After collaborating with local services Headspace and Beyond Blue, and consulting with people who have personal experience with self-injury or suicide, the social media giant announced on Friday new changes to support local users experiencing "a difficult time".

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One feature allows users to anonymously flag concerning status updates from people on their Friends list.

"We have teams working around the world, 24/7, who review any report that comes in. The team prioritise the most serious reports like self-harm and suicide and send help and resources to those in distress," Facebook explained in a post.

These resources might be offered through a private message to the user, or through a click-through function — this presents tools for finding mental health professionals and reaching out to friends, and suggests relaxation strategies that might be helpful to someone in distress.

Watch: Mia Freedman shares how she manages her generalised anxiety disorder. (Post continues after video.)

The person who reported the post will also privately receive advice for how to talk to and support their friend.

As we reported at the time, Facebook rolled out these changes across the US in February — however, the Australian version has been specifically tailored for a local audience.

According to Georgie Harman, CEO of Beyond Blue, this initiative is a positive example of a social media platform being proactive about the wellbeing of its users.

“People are very afraid of saying the wrong thing and crossing boundaries in terms of respecting people’s privacy… this is another strategy we can put in the tool kit that helps people get people connected to help," Harman told The Glow earlier this year. (Post continues after gallery.)

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“I think social media platforms absolutely have a responsibility in this space … when an individual is in a digital environment and is expressing suicidal thoughts or feelings or they’re in high distress, there has to be an intervention.”

It's important to note that if you believe someone you know is contemplating suicide based on what they're posted on Facebook, you should call emergency services before flagging their update.

What do you think of this new service from Facebook?

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