When someone in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa searches for terms associated with suicide or self-harm on Twitter, the top search result is a prompt encouraging them to reach out for help.
The notification includes the contact details of a local non-profit organisation that provides critical mental health resources to people in need: Amref Health Africa in Kenya, The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) in South Africa, and Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) in Nigeria.
“The open Twitter community can be an important source of real-time support for anyone struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Addressing mental health requires collaboration between all stakeholders – public, private, and not-for-profit. We’re pleased to partner with SADAG, MANI, and Amref Health Africa to encourage people in need to reach out for help, and are grateful for their collaboration and support,” said Emmanuel Lubanzadio, Head of Public Policy for Sub-Saharan Africa, Twitter in a joint statement.
Founded in 1957, Amref Health Africa, headquartered in Kenya, is the largest Africa based International Non-Governmental Organisation (INGO) currently running programs in over 35 countries in Africa with lessons learnt over 60 years of engagement with governments, communities and partners to increase sustainable health access in Africa.
Amref Health Africa also incorporates programme development, fundraising, partnership, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, and has offices in Europe and North America as well as subsidiaries: Amref Flying Doctors, Amref Enterprises, and the Amref International University.
“Mental health continues to be a growing concern for Africa and increasingly, amongst young people in particular, who across the region are already struggling to earn a livelihood in highly competitive labour markets, now have to deal with a pandemic that’s largely affecting them. Many will experience psychological problems as they fail to realise their ambitions, and some will turn to substance misuse as a means of alleviating their frustration. Increased attention to mental health by governments, researchers, and journals is therefore essential,” said Dr. Githinji Gitahi the Group CEO of Amref Health Africa.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is at the forefront of patient advocacy, education, and de-stigmatisation of mental illness, carrying out its work through a 22 Helpline Call Center, which includes the country’s only Suicide Crisis Helpline.
“Many people turn to social media to share their feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and 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. If more people know how to contact us, we can help and support more people and prevent more suicides,” said Cassey Chambers, Operations Director at SADAG.
Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI), founded in 2016, is Nigeria’s most influential youth led mental health network and the biggest provider of crisis support services for mental health in the country, reaching over 25,000 people since the service was established in March 2017.
“Prior to this moment, we had focused on a sustained approach of mental health education to help Twitter users in Nigeria identify as ‘spotters’ and share with us, Tweets that they come across which suggest possible suicide risk or mental health crisis. So far, this has been an effective enough approach, but we would love to reach more users and on time too (so as not to miss any high-risk cases), and so we are excited to partner with Twitter to connect users in Nigeria needing support with their mental health to our services in real-time and on time,” according to Victor Ugo, Founder, MANI.
Twitter 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 they might be at risk. Twitter also provides online and hotline resources and encourage them to seek help. Twitter also shares information on their Help Centre both for people who may be experiencing thoughts of suicide and self-harm and for people who are concerned about others on Twitter.