Samaritans Radar tracks Twitter users that exhibit suicide behaviour

We all go through difficult times, and it can often be hard to cope with what life throws at us. Whether you're going through a particularly tricky patch and feeling low, or you're struggling with depression, it can be helpful to know that there are people you can talk to. But reaching out to people can be hard and it often falls to friends to notice signs of someone in trouble so they can be there when required.

Everyone would like to think they would notice when a friend starts to post worrying messages online, but the sheer volume of content we all consume each day means that it is easy to miss something important. Suicide prevention charity, Samaritans, has launched a new online venture, Samaritans Radar, which monitors the Twitter feeds of those who sign up, looking out for "potentially worrying tweets".

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The UK charity explains that the service has been set up because people often use social media to express their innermost feelings, "sometimes in the hope that someone will reach out". Activate the service for your account and it will monitor the tweets of people you follow:

The app contains a special algorithm that looks for specific keywords and phrases that may indicate that someone is struggling to cope. Samaritans Radar then sends you an email if it thinks someone you follow might need some support. If this is the case, Samaritans Radar will offer you guidance on what to do next.

It's a fairly simple idea, but Samaritans Radar looks out for phrases such as "tired of being alone", "hate myself", "depressed", and other undisclosed terms. While the service is well-intentioned, there will be privacy concerns for many people. To try to allay such fears, Samaritans says "Samaritans Radar is activated discreetly and all alerts are sent to you alone -- never to your Twitter friends". This may not be enough to quieten the concerns of those who feel their feeds are now open to additional monitoring.