My mental health issues have been talked about a bit on here, so I’ll assume it’s known that I’m not always doing wonderfully.
I have previously used the Samaritans, and have always found them wonderful. When I’m able I do try to donate to them. Fantastic service, more people should support it!
That out of the way, I’m really not sure what I think of #SamaritansRadar.
My initial thoughts on it were positive.
I know I’ve found myself struggling and, not knowing where to turn, I’ve put a message out there on Twitter or Facebook in the vague hope someone will notice and reach out. Often I’ve found those posts and tweets have gone unnoticed, lost in a tide of hashtags and amusing or anger provoking tweets. Which has definitely deepened the depression as it has reinforced my feeling of being unliked and unnoticed.
So from that point of view it would be useful for people to have their attention drawn to these messages, so they don’t go unanswered.
As I do try to believe people are more good than bad I also just assumed those signing up to the radar would be doing so because of a desire to help and offer support. Like the amazing people that man the Samaritans phone and email.
I still think the vast majority of people who would sign up to it are of the kind and caring variety.
From the other side as well, I have been the one concerned about a friend and constantly checking their social media in case they are crying out. Having been in a situation where I’ve missed those cries just through sheer volume of information and seen it have some awful consequences I could see an advantage to using the radar, so I don’t miss them, and maybe be able to be there.
I also think that promoting this idea of people literally looking out for each other and encouraging people to reach out and offer support is commendable. In a similar vein to the Time to Talk mental health campaign people should be encouraged to talk about mental health.
So far so good.
But here’s where it falls down, people aren’t all lovely, and this app is out of the control of the sufferer.
I think it is possible to save it, but it requires a rethink of the app and how it works.
1. The sufferer needs to be able to say whether they want their tweets to be searchable. And they shouldn’t have to set their profile to private to do so.
2. If the sufferer also needs to be able to decide who gets notified. One solution I saw mentioned on twitter was to only be able to get notifications from people who also follow you. Without this it means trolls could follow someone with the intention of going after them when they know they are vulnerable. You cannot look at the press lately and not see the potential for that. Failing that I think sufferers should be able to say who they want notified, or more importantly, who they don’t want notified.
This app should be about the sufferer, not the follower.
I would be disappointed to see the app be got rid of completely, I think it could be very helpful, it just needs a bit of refinement.
In the meantime hopefully it’ll get people talking about mental health issues and how best to help sufferers. God knows we need it.
So thank you Samaritans, your heart is in the right place, and you are famed for your listening skills, now would be a fantastic opportunity to show how listening to those with mental health issues is the best way to help them.