Samaritans has intoduced a new initiative enabling any UK or Ireland Facebook user worried about a friend’s happiness or state of mind to enlist their help.

Using Facebook’s Help Centre, friends can report any wall posts, statuses or comments that they feel require urgent attention.

Samaritans will then contact the potentially vulnerable friend via Facebook where they will offer their help and advice.

Samaritans’ Senior Press Officer Will Davies said: ”With the amount of users it has it is impossible for Facebook to monitor the millions of posts it gets each day. We’ve been working with social media for a long time and we believe this will be very useful.”

People who use the facility to alert Samaritans about a distressed friend will have their name kept confidential.

A Samaritans volunteer takes a phone call

According to its website, Samaritans’ 18,500 volunteers take five million calls each year from people who are ‘feeling down, depressed, anxious or suicidal.’

Will Davies explained that the innovative new scheme had previously been in practice for a number of months.

”We trialled it over three months as a precaution. There were no problems and the use of the facility has been growing.”

”It came from people who were communicating vulnerable feelings on Facebook and not being taken seriously.”

There have been a number of reported examples where Facebook users have attempted suicide after posting messages on the site, including charity worker Simone Back from Brighton.

Back, 42, posted the following status on Christmas Day: ‘Took all my pills be dead soon so bye bye every one.’

Despite having over 1000 Facebook friends it was not until the next day that her mother was contacted by text message, by which point Simone had died.

As well as teaming up with Facebook, Samaritans have also been working on a number of other ways to help people, in addition to their traditional telephone service.

”We also linked up with Google and if you search ‘suicide’ then a red telephone box with Samaritans’ number appears,” said Will Davies. ”Another recent campaign is Men on the Ropes, working closely with men from the ages of 18 to 50.”

Men on the Ropes with its boxing theme specifically targets working-class males of this age bracket who were found to be most likely to commit suicide.

”It is a big issue and it involves working with Network Rail too with suicide on railways in mind.”

Davies also issued a plea to anyone using Facebook who might be concerned by a friend’s well-being online.

”If you see on Facebook, or anywhere else, that a friend is distressed then don’t ignore them. You can take action by filling out a small form and alerting Samaritans through Facebook.”

”You should also try to contact the friend yourself and offer your support.”

Samaritans website