Twitter Partners Local Organisations to Support Mental Health Work in Nigeria, Kenya, S/Africa

Rebecca Ejifoma

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 today 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’re 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 expressed further.

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 continued, 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.

In the words of the Operations Director at SADAG, Cassey Chambers, 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,” comments Chambers.

Founded in 1957, Amref Health Africa , headquartered in Kenya, is the largest Africa based International Non-Governmental Organisation (INGO) currently running programmes 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.

The Group CEO of Amref Health Africa, 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.

Now in its third year, Twitter is proud to continue its partnership with the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) by launching a special emoji in the shape of an orange ribbon – the international symbol for World Suicide Prevention Day.

The emoji will appear when people Tweet with the hashtags #WorldSuicidePreventionDay, #WSPD, #WSPD2020, #SuicidePrevention through September 25 and is activated in 23 languages.

The #ThereIsHelp notification service for mental health and suicide prevention is available for people in 29 markets worldwide.

Twitter, however, encouraged, “If you or someone you know is going through a tough time, you’re not alone. Contact SADAG , MANI or Amref Health Africa.”

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