Samaritans Radar warns Twitter users if friends are suicidal

29 Oct 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

Q&A: Samaritans Radar.

The Samaritans Radar web app monitors people’s tweets and alerts their friends if it spots signs that someone may be struggling to cope. Suicide prevention charity Samaritans is mining Twitter for signs of people “struggling to cope”, with the aim of alerting their friends and advising them on how to provide support.The kind of language that would prompt a Samaritans Radar alert includes explicit phrases such as “kill myself” or “want to die”, as well as less overt references to suicide, such as “end it all,” “sleep and never wake up,” or “I’m worthless.” Other tweets that could get flagged up would be ones expressing a sense of hopelessness, the absence of a future, a sense of being trapped or someone talking about feeling very tired. Samaritans Radar launched today as a website that will “flag potentially worrying tweets that you may have missed” once Twitter users register their details.

These include sending the friend a tweet, direct message, email or text message “gently asking how they’re doing” and meeting up with the friend or arranging time to chat on the phone. It draws on the fact that vulnerable young people sometimes issue a cry for help on social media and this can be an opportunity to step in and try and help them, if it is spotted in time. Twitter said it hoped the app would make the website a safer platform for its users and the format could eventually be extended to other industry groups. “There’s a disinhibition effect and there’s this idea that people can be more honest in what they say.

If the app sees anything of concern, it sends an email alert with a link to the tweet it has detected, and offers guidance on the best way to provide support to the person who posted the message. Instead we need to use tools such as Samaritans Radar to encourage people to look out for one another online, helping them to reach out and offer support.” Samaritans Radar is aimed at the 15m Twitter users in the UK, and particularly at 18-35 year-old “millennials” who are the most active group on the social network. “Twitter actively forges partnerships with organisations in the field of online safety and digital citizenship, and Samaritans has a longstanding reputation for supporting people in times of need,” said Twitter’s global head of trust and safety outreach Patricia Cartes. Ultimately the app is a tool for human beings to pay more attention to other human beings.” Prof Rory O’Connor, of Glasgow University’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing, said: “We know from traditional media that any communication that’s suicidal has to be taken seriously. The Samaritans say the app lends itself to the public nature of Twitter and that the target group are known to use the website to communicate with friends.

However, we believe that people who voluntarily sign up for Samaritans Radar genuinely care about the wellbeing of their Twitter friends and will take action should they receive an alert.

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