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An Indonesian researcher, Dr Sandersan (Sandy) Onie is looking at how Google Adwords can be used to redirect individuals searching suicide-related terms on Google.
Dr Onie explained, “Studies have shown repeatedly that an increase of suicide-related search terms correspond to suicide rate, therefore, it is conceivable that people would search up suicide-related terms on Google.”
Through Google Grants for Non-Profit, Onie and his colleagues have created an intervention to reach people in crisis. The project is based on digital interventions, which focuses on initiatives that are low-cost, but able to reach a wide range of communities.
Although the search terms may differ in language, the principle of using Google Ads could help tackle challenges, such as an unsustainable nationwide suicide hotline.
How did the idea for this project come about?
Dr Onie, who currently works at the Black Dog Institute at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, reveals that his passion towards mental health research and open science was not conceived out of pure curiosity, but rather from personal experience.
“It was a necessity; it was a means to improve the life of my own family, and the lives of countless others,” he said.
He shared that his own father suffered from crippling anxiety attacks three months after he was born.
“As I grew up, I saw the crippling effects of panic attacks on a great man, which would eventually lead to the breakdown of my family unit,” Dr Onie said. “I too developed depression in junior high school and at the time, I had never even heard of ‘depression’.”
After recovering with support from a group of friends in his church community, Dr Onie has dedicated his life to improving the lives and mental health of others.
What are the current resources available for individuals struggling with suicide?
In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that suicide rates in Southeast Asia, including India, were one of the highest among the world. Locally, a nationwide study done in 2016 showed that at least one in seven people in Singapore reported experiencing a mental disorder at some point in their life.
In Singapore, there is a 24-hour anonymous crisis hotline (1800-221 4444) by Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), a non-profit organisation dedicated to “providing confidential emotional support to individuals facing a crisis, thinking about or affected by suicide”. They also have an email befriending service ([email protected]) and a text messaging service on Facebook Messenger (http://m.me/SamaritansOfSingapore) for those who prefer communicating through text.
For younger children, Tinkle Friend is a national hotline and chatline (1800 2744 788) for primary school children to receive emotional support, in the event that their parents or caregivers are unavailable.
More detailed information about mental health-related resources can be found here.