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Facebook launches self-harm prevention program for veterans, military families

Rosa Golijan/msnbc.com

A bit over a year ago, Facebook launched a program which aimed to prevent suicide by enabling users to instantly connect with crisis counselors through the social network's messaging system. On Wednesday, the company announced that it will augment those (and other) suicide prevention tools by adding customized services for veterans, active duty military service members, and their families.

Ten percent of military family members and nine percent of service members have considered suicide, according to a Military Lifestyle Survey conducted by the non-partisan, non-profit Blue Star Families. That very same survey also found that "social media use is prevalent throughout military families with over 90 percent of respondents reporting some type of use, of which 86 percent said that they were on Facebook daily."

So it makes sense that Blue Star, a military family assistance organization, is partnering with the social network and the Department of Veterans Affairs to address these issues.

Stephanie Himel-Nelson, director of communications for Blue Star Families, explains in a blog post that, thanks to the partnership — and the Facebook engineering team's efforts —  there is now a "customized solution that could help to identify military families and military personnel, ensuring that family members could send critical military-related counseling information to their soldiers." This information includes, among other things, ways to reach the Veterans Crisis Line, which connects veterans (and their friends and families) to qualified Department of Veterans Affairs responders via phone, online chat or text messaging.

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