Now, an app to monitor tweets to spot suicidal pals

Suicide prevention charity Samaritans has launched a service to help people spot whether their friends could be at risk of taking their own lives. Users of Twitter can set up Samaritans Radar to monitor their friends’ tweets for signs that they may be struggling to cope. The app uses an algorithm that detects specific keywords and phrases including “hate myself”, “tired of being alone”, “depressed”, “help me” and “need someone to talk to” in friends’ tweets. When trigge8red, it alerts the person who has installed it and offers guidance on the best way of reaching out and providing support to the person who could be at risk.

The Samaritans Radar app was developed by digital agency Jam using Twitter’s API, which allows third-party applications to easily interface with the service. Joe Ferns, executive director of policy, research & development at Samaritans, indicated that app would continue to be updated as more data became available. “We know that people struggling to cope often go online looking for support, however, there is still so much we need to learn about why this happens and how we can make the online environment safer for vulnerable people,” he said. “By not addressing this issue we run the risk of shutting these discussions down and driving them underground. 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.” The charity showed a link between the rate of tweeting and risk of suicide as inspiration for development of the application.

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