Facebook throws Cleveland woman a lifeline during a trying time

CLEVELAND - A Cleveland woman got an unexpected lifeline ready to deploy in your darkest hour and learned that much-needed help is just a few clicks away. The woman shared her experience after receiving a surprising message on social media.

Something strange happened to Samantha Severo recently.

After connecting with other members of a private Facebook group on mental illness, the social media platform reached out to check in on her.

"I don't know if we dropped keywords or something specific, but the next time I logged into Facebook I had a message pop up," said Severo. She was surprised to see the social media platform reaching out to offer help.

"At first, I thought it was an ad, and I was frustrated," said Severo.

But after taking a closer look, the 28-year old saw a link for mental health resources.

"I read it and actually taken aback," said Severo.

There was also a link to chat with a friend or contact a helpline.

"I like how it kind of just popped up in your face," said Severo.

Facebook admitted it made the move because of something Severo posted.

"That was very personal, but also very helpful. It took a minute to resonate," said Severo.

As for invasion of privacy concerns, Severo said, "Their goal behind it was to be more helpful than nosey, so I'm all for it."

Katharine Oh runs the counseling center at Cleveland State University.

"I'm not sure how much privacy Facebook promises anyway," said Oh.

Oh said this kind of outreach makes sense.

"Sometimes young people will post their suicidal thoughts on Facebook rather than calling a friend or talking about it in some other way," she said.

Even if someone is not at the point of suicide, Oh believes this alert can help raise awareness.

“Sometimes people make light of their stresses and problems and that kind of immediate response can make them aware. Hey, maybe I do need help or support right now," said Oh.

Oh said we can all learn something from this social media support.

"I think what we need more of is just the people around us doing it too," said Oh.

"Everybody struggles sometimes, how are you doing? Can I help? Can I listen?"

Severo said she is grateful for what she calls a helping hand.

"You hear your friends all the time I'm here for you, whatever you need, but just to have Facebook in your face saying here's what we want to do for you because we noticed how you're feeling," said Severo.

It was a simple gesture that could make the difference between life and death.

"Especially, think about it, late at night posting, none of your friends are awake, you're in the dark,” said Severo.

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