UK charity teams with Twitter to help friends in need

Samaritans Radar.
Samaritans Radar.

Samaritans, a nonprofit support organization for people in emotional distress, has launched its Radar app to track warning signs from friends

LONDON — In an innovative social-media initiative, U.K. charity Samaritans has partnered with Twitter to produce Radar, a service that allows tweeters to keep an eye on vulnerable friends online.

The Samaritans Radar web app runs on Twitter’s API. When enabled by a user, it scans friends’ tweets for specific keywords and phrases.

Anything deemed indicative of a suicide risk is automatically flagged up to the user via email, with a link to the tweet and resources on how to help.

The notifications are completely private, and never seen by a user’s Twitter followers. A user will only see alerts relating to friends they follow, and not those who follow them. The app will not be able to scan direct messages either.

Language that might trigger a red flag includes "tired of being alone," "hate myself," "depressed" and "need someone to talk to."

However, common phrases such as "help me" are also included, and the app may flag up sarcastic or humorous tweets. Users will be able to give feedback on whether an alert was correct.

In an FAQ on its website, Samaritans says the app can recognize specific phrases but "won’t get it right every time."  Organizations that might tweet similar language – such as other suicide-prevention charities – can also be whitelisted.

Samaritans Radar has been produced by digital agency Jam as part of Twitter’s "Ads for Good"program and marks a wider collaboration with the charity.

The app is targeted at 18- to 35-year-olds on the basis that they tend to share more social-media updates indicative of their emotional well-being.

Samaritans has also worked with Facebook, launching the "Help a friend in need" campaign last month.

Joe Ferns, executive director of policy, research and development at Samaritans, said: "We know that people struggling to cope often go online looking for support.

"By not addressing this issue we run the risk of shutting these discussions down and driving them underground." 

This story originally appeared on

Subscribe today for just $116 a year

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free