Facebook used to reach out

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 11:30 04/02/2013

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Negative postings on people's Facebook pages that threatened self-harm are a classic call for help, says NetSafe chief technology officer Sean Lyons.

NetSafe is an independent non-profit organisation promoting cybersafety and the safe, responsible use of online technologies.

The organisation does a lot of work with Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand, Mr Lyons said.

"When people threaten suicide on Facebook, it's a classic call for help," he said.

People close to the person should reach out to them because while the message is not direct, it is that person's way of getting it across, he said.

Such messages and postings are not as prevalent as online bullying or "trolling", where people post negative comments about a person that could tip them over the edge, he said.

Justice Minister Judith Collins is pushing to change the law to make "incitement to suicide" a criminal offence, regardless of whether a person commits suicide or attempts to.

Negative messages threatening self-harm on Facebook should be treated in the same light, Mr Lyons said.

"It has to be taken seriously.

"People need to wrap support around them."

Technology has not changed anything, but it has provided a window into different issues that people would not normally see, he said.

"Now someone can reach out to 300 friends on Facebook, and there is the potential for least one of them to reply."

Facebook also offers support in the form of a warning.

If someone reports a person who had been threatening self-harm, Facebook sends them a direct message offering support and providing links to services that can help.

By doing so, Facebook is acting as a member of the community and being proactive in addressing the problem, Mr Lyons said.

The Marlborough Express understands Gary Green, the man arrested after barricading himself in a motel room on Wednesday last week, received a reply after posting messages on Facebook threatening to harm himself.

Green told an Express reporter on Friday that he came to Blenheim to "expose the truth" about government employees forcing false convictions on him as well as being ignored by health services.

He had posted messages on Facebook saying he would "bring an end to it all".

He is to appear in Blenheim District Court on Monday next week.

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- The Marlborough Express

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