Facebook adds suicide prevention tools for users in Japan

TOKYO, June 30 (UPI) — Facebook introduced new features aimed to help prevent suicide in Japan, where it is a leading cause of death.

The social media site’s new tools, released in the United States on June 14, include a way to flag posts that suggest the writer is suicidal. A V-shaped symbol on the upper right-hand corner of the screen can be pressed to report the user’s concern, The Japan Times reported.

Facebook has been developing the tools since 2011.

“Thanks to this update, Facebook can offer more generous support to help people who post a message suggesting bad physical and mental conditions,” said Kumiko Hidaka, a Facebook spokeswoman in Japan.

Users who report a concern about suicide are invited to perform other functions on Facebook, including sending a direct message, consulting another friend on Facebook or reading advice from experts.

The person who wrote the flagged post can also see a special page that says someone cares about them the next time they log into their account.

Groups advocating privacy in the United States, however, may have reservations about the feature, according to The New York Times. Facebook dominates among online networks – about 72 percent of Americans, and 77 percent of U.S. women use Facebook, according to Pew Research.

Suicide has reached a 30-year-high in the United States, particularly among women and middle-aged Americans.

In Japan, 24,025 deaths were reported as suicides in 2015, according to the National Police Agency. Suicide in Japan was also the most common cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 39 in 2014.

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