Samaritans launches app which flags up suicidal tweets

| 29th Oct 14

Samaritans, the leading suicide prevention charity, has launched a free Twitter application which flags up suicidal tweets from friends and suggests how they can help.

Created by digital agency Jam using Twitter’s API, Samaritans Radar uses a special algorithm that searches for specific keywords and phrases within a tweet, such as “kill myself” or “want to die”. It then alerts the user via email with a link to the troubling tweet, along with advice on how to support the person. This could be tweeting the person, sending them a direct message or asking how they are doing.

Joe Ferns, Samaritans executive director of policy research and development, said: “Social media has changed the way people talk to each other. There’s a disinhibition effect and there’s this idea that people can be more honest in what they say. It can be quite raw, and that rawness, that honesty, is an opportunity. We’re trying to create a safe place in the online environment. 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. Suicide prevention is everyone’s business. It’s not about trying to be a clinician or a counsellor but recognising we all have a role and could all help our friends.”