By Collins Nweze
Twitter has partnered local Organisations to Support Mental Health Work in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, a new initiative that makes it easier for people in need to find support resources online.
Starting in these countries, when someone 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: The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) in South Africa, Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) in Nigeria, and Amref Health Africa in Kenya.
Head of Public Policy for Sub-Saharan Africa, Twitter, Emmanuel Lubanzadio, said, “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 are pleased to partner SADAG, MANI and Amref Health Africa to encourage people in need to reach out for help, and are grateful for their collaboration and support,” he said.
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, Lubanzadio noted that, 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.
According to the founder, MANI, Victor Ugo, 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).
“So we are excited to partner Twitter to connect users in Nigeria needing support with their mental health to our services in real time and on time.”
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 Centre, which includes the country’s only Suicide Crisis Helpline.
The Operations Director at SADAG, Cassey Chambers, pointed out that 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,” he said
The Group CEO of Amref Health Africa, Kenya, Dr Githinji Gitahi, highlighted that 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.”
Part of the activities of the programme is that 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 will provide 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.