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Social media feature helps prevent suicide


Busi Nyandeni

 

Social media network Twitter has rolled out a new feature in South Africa to help those with suicidal thoughts to reach out for assistance, directing users to expert help.

Twitter users who search for terms associated with suicide or self-harm, will receive a large notification encouraging them to contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), which operates the country’s only suicide crisis helpline.

SADAG operations director Cassey Chambers says many people turn to social media to share their feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

“To be able to give those people a resource to access help in a time of crisis is helpful to SADAG, so we can help more people who feel like suicide is the only option,” Chambers says.

Twitter’s public policy head for Sub-Saharan Africa  Emmanuel Lubanzadio says the social media platform’s community can be an important source of real-time support for anyone struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Twitter also has a dedicated reporting form for people threatening suicide or self-harm.

“A specialised team reviews these reports, and upon receiving them, they will be in direct contact to let the individual know someone who cares about them identified that they might be at risk,” Lubanzadio says.

The company launched a special emoji in the shape of an orange ribbon, the international symbol for World Suicide Prevention Day, which is on 10 September, which will appear when people tweet with the hashtags #WorldSuicidePreventionDay, #WSPD, #WSPD2020 and #SuicidePrevention this month.

Twitter has also deployed a similar prompt in Kenya and Nigeria.