People in dire emotional and mental straits often reach out, but too often people on the receiving end don’t understand the message. A new app called Samaritans Radar scans tweets for words and phrases commonly used by people who are suicidal, and creates alerts. The app is early in its development and will probably make a lot of mistakes, but with so much at stake it would rather be wrong fifty times and right once–if when it’s correct it can help prevent a tragedy.
The UN reports that 800,000 people commit suicide each year. That’s one person every 40 seconds. The app has a lot of work to do. Every second, on average, about 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter. 500 million tweets are sent a day. Finding a call for help among them will take some serious data crunching.