Lifeline Launches Twitter DM Chatbot To Make It Easier To Seek Help

In the evolving Twittersphere, a new chatbot is hoping to kickstart and advance conversations around mental health. 

Warning: This story refers to content around suicide and self harm that may be distressing for some readers.  

Lifeline has teamed up with Twitter to launch an Australian-first direct message chatbot that helps family and friends access support for loved ones who might be struggling with suicide or self harm.

It's called #BeALifeline, and you may have seen the hashtag pop up on Twitter since its launch on Thursday.

"Already we've seen  conversations starting, as people speak out about their experiences, and others reach out in response," Twitter's Head of Public Policy Kara Hinesley told ten daily.

"We want to take this awareness that has been growing over a number of years and build more functionality around it."

Chatbots are computer programs that use artificial intelligence to simulate conversations with humans, typically online.

This one makes Lifeline's resources easily discoverable and is designed primarily as a "touchpoint" for caregivers who may be noticing red flags.

"Sometimes, you're not sure how to start the conversation. We wanted to make it easier for caregivers to find resources, be better informed and to  request support," Hinesley said.

"It's a subtle way to use Twitter and make it easier to find this information wherever they are."

The chatbot offers resources around preventing suicide and self-harm, as well as a "Get Help Now" option for individuals who require urgent help to get in touch with a professional.

"Self harm and suicide are extremely complex and sensitive issues, both online and offline, so we're working closely with our team of experts and partners to provide people with the help that they need," Hinesley said.

READ MORE: R U OK? Here's What To Do If Someone Says 'No'

#BeALifeline was created in partnership with Twitter's probono advertising arm 'Ads For Good' and a US$100,000 grant offered to Lifeline.

It is currently in a beta testing stage, with information to be collected  and analysed after six months.

"This is one part of a bigger partnership that we have into the future," Hinesley said.

How do I use it?

It's simple. Twitter users can head to Lifeline's Twitter homepage (@LifelineAust) on mobile or desktop and click on 'Message'.

A welcome message will pop up and users can start moving through the resources available.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

Contact the author: ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au.