PoetsIn Interview - with Alice Hendy from R;pple Suicide Prevention
The Creative Mental Health Charity PoetsIN is all for open dialogue to break down the stigma attached to mental health, especially when it comes to suicide prevention. We meet many people on a similar shared journey to better others’ lives and create a world with more tools to manage and a greater understanding of mental illnesses.
Few people have had an effect on us like the person whose story you are about to read. Alice has taken a tragedy and acted upon swiftly, whilst grieving, it to create something that will disrupt the internet and help further tragedies from happening; a legacy for the poor young man she and her family have lost to suicide. Readers, please read on and share her story.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Alice Hendy. I’m an IT and Cyber Security specialist in my day job, and I’ve founded a charitable organisation called R;pple Suicide Prevention in my spare time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact upon the population’s mental health, affecting some groups much more than others. Social isolation, job losses, financial concerns, working on the front line and housing insecurities are just some of the key factors which are having a major impact upon mental health across the UK and subsequently adding huge strain on mental health services.
You’ve started up R;pple – please tell us about that.
On Wednesday 25th November 2020, my world came crashing down around me. My only sibling, my brother Josh, took his own life at the age of just 21 by hanging. Since then, I have been working tirelessly on a new, innovative tool which redirects users searching for harmful online content to a visual display page containing charity partner details and encourages them to seek mental health support. You can read my article here which explains my story.
After examining Josh’s phone and laptop, I found that Josh had been researching techniques to take his own life via internet searches, suicide forums and video tutorials. The content available online following a harmful online search is far too readily available and fails to provide enough of an intervention between a user searching for harmful content and the subsequent display of the search results.
To ensure more help and support is given to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis and searching for harmful content online, I set up R;pple Suicide Prevention to ensure that as many users and their families as possible do not experience the same trauma which my family are going through following the loss of a loved one from suicide.
R;pple addresses the lack of intervention and instead provides an immediate, vibrant display on a user’s device once they have been flagged as searching for online content relating to self-harm or suicide. R;pple is an online nudge technique which consists of a powerful message of hope and encouragement to resonate with the user, as well as providing a selection of mental health support resources in a range of different
communicative options (call, text, webchat, self-help app, pocket resources) from one of our charity partners. Through R;pple, an individual feeling despair and researching harmful content will be urged to instead seek mental health support they deserve and need in a way that works best for them.
How has your background helped with setting up this incredible tool?
I work in IT and Cyber Security, and have done for many years for global financial institutions and insurance companies. I’m lucky and fortunate to have some amazing colleagues and people around me who are much more technologically savvy than myself in getting the R;pple tool up and running. I couldn’t do this without them.
There are some truly shocking statistics out there around suicide – can you share some?
Some of the statistics available on suicide are very distressing, and I feel the situation is sadly getting worse with the isolation and loneliness people are feeling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the most shocking statistics I have found relating to suicide and internet use specifically are below, which really bring home why the R;pple tool is a necessity to stop lives from being taken from us too soon.
“There are 1.2 million internet searches for suicide methods and ways to commit suicide every month” – Suicide Forum
“In a population survey of 21-year olds, of the 248 participants who had made suicide attempts, almost three quarters reported suicide-related internet use.” – Bristol University
“Suicide-related internet use was found in 26% of deaths in under 20s – Samaritans
You have garnered so much support from so many so fast. Why do you think that is?
I ask myself this same question every day. I never in a million years anticipated or thought that I would gain such traction so quickly. I think, once people hear or read about my story, I am resonating with a lot of people. I also believe that the R;pple tool concept is such a simple idea that can have a such a phenomenal impact on users experiencing a mental health crisis, it really is a no brainer.
We are in awe of you and what you have achieved so far. What are your long-term goals?
You’re making me blush! But, this isn’t about me, it’s about ensuring other sisters, other parents, families and friends don’t experience the total devastation that we are currently living in day in, day out. Ripple has been set up to not only create a legacy for Josh, but to ensure that people out there who are conducting online searches which are harmful in nature can get signposted to the mental health support that they need and deserve. In terms of my long term objectives, I’d love to see R;pple implemented on a global scale. I’m starting with the UK, but I have interest from the US, Australia, Netherlands and Japan so far. The tool would work in the same way but redirect users to their local mental health support charities relevant to their location. So in a nutshell, I want R;pple to be a global intervention tool which saves people’s lives on a daily basis.
Many of us have experienced times where writing has helped us overcome times of pain – I understand your Dad has found comfort in this.
You’re right. I haven’t personally tried my hand at Poetry yet, but I may give it a go as an outlet to my grief. I have written a blog relating to my experiences of grief which can be found here. My dad has a bit of a hidden talent with poetry writing. He wrote and read out a beautiful poem to me on my wedding day and more recently, wrote the most poignant and moving poem about my brother which he somehow managed to pluck up the courage to read out at his funeral. Everyone was in awe of his strength in not only writing it, but reading it out so beautifully at the ceremony. I don’t think we should every underestimate the power of words.
We are so proud to support you. Is there any way that others can support you, and how?
I appreciate your support and love your work. It’s an honour and a privilege to be affiliated with you. In terms of support required, I am looking for funding and investment in the R;pple tool to assist me in both the build and maintenance. This really is a lifesaving tool and financial support is desperately required to make this a reality. I have created a Crowdfunding page here where people can donate (however small) to help me in my mission. You can also support me by following my journey on my social media channels and sharing my concept with your network (info below).
In an ideal world, who would you love to get support from?
The big players for me are the likes of Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and Yahoo! as the main search engines people use day to day. But, I’d also love to get the support and backing of Internet Service Providers such as Virgin Media, BT, Sky and TalkTalk, as they can also implement this tool within their platforms. The other aspect of support required is from the mental health charities themselves who I can add onto my tool in order to signpost more users to their mental health services. The likes of Samaritans, Calm, Shout, Jacobs One Million Lives and Grassroots StayAlive app are all engaging in ongoing discussions at the moment, with 3 of them officially on board. If you work for a business who would like to sponsor me or support my endeavour, I’d love to hear from you.
I’d also appreciate any help from you, the readers! You can follow, like and share my journey with me via my social media platforms below: