Can Facebook Be Used to Help Treat Depression & Prevent Suicide?
You can learn a lot by looking at someone’s Facebook status, from what they ate for lunch to like, OMG, they have THE best boyfriend in the world!!! Now, a new study says your updates can also reveal if you’re depressed.
The New York Times reports that researchers sampled 200 Facebook profiles of University of Washington and the University of Wisconsin-Madison students, and found that 30 percent of the status updates revealed symptoms of depression, including worthlessness, hopelessness, insomnia, sleeping too much and difficulty concentrating.
Other studies validate this point, reporting that “30 to 40 percent of college students suffer a debilitating depressive episode each year.” Unfortunately, only 10 percent of these students get treated professionally.
The good news? Facebook has had a partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline since 2007, which allows updates to be reported as “suicidal,” and is then reported to the Lifeline. This past December, Facebook also launched a feature that sends the potentially depressed person to an online counselor.
Lilly Cao, a former resident adviser at Wisconsin-Madison tells the New York Times that updates are not just cries for attention. “If [the students] say something alarming on Facebook, they know it’s public and they want someone to respond.”
Susan Kidd, a high school teacher in Kentucky, tells the New York Times that her students’ Facebook statuses are a “valuable tool” to determine if they’re having troubles, saying that some students “may otherwise not have been forthcoming with serious issues.”
With over 845 million people across the world who have Facebook active accounts, the social networking site may prove a valuable tool to facilitate treatment of depression and suicide prevention.