Suicide and mental health awareness has been an increasingly hot topic over the past few years, even more so now in the grips of the pandemic. More time at home has meant more time online. While that has been a shelter for some providing entertainment, connection, and fun; for others it can be a downward spiral. The internet is often an unchecked place, where content following a harmful online search is far too readily available.
This is true for Alice Hendy, who joins Inside the Sweeps to discuss her personal story and R;pple Suicide Prevention, a charity created from her own family tragedy. With help from Netsweeper, Alice was able to launch the R;pple tool which looks to reduce exposure to harmful online content relating to self-harm and suicide while also providing immediate support to those experiencing a mental health crisis.
[00:00:28] Hello everyone, and welcome back I’m very excited for our guest today. Alice Hendy, the founder, and director of Ripple Suicide Prevention. Thank you so much for joining me, Alice why don’t you introduce yourself and introduce the Ripple organization and how it was formed to our audience?
[00:00:45] Thanks Alison, thanks very much for having me. I am the founder and CEO of a mental health and suicide prevention charity called Ripple. I do have a day job alongside that working for QBE Insurance as head of Europe for cyber security and I recently set up Ripple as a charity following the loss of my brother Josh which happened on the 25th of November 2020, so a deeply personal event and something which I’m very much still coming to terms with. That has spurred me into action to try to stop this tragedy happening to any other families.
In terms of what Ripple actually is, it’s a browser extension tool. It’s available to be downloaded on Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, and very soon also Safari, Firefox, and Opera Browsers. And how it works is once downloaded if somebody was to search for content relating to self harm or suicide, my Ripple tool would intercept them. Provide them with a message of hope that things will get better, and a selection of different mental health resource designed to help that person.
[00:01:51] You have such a strong goal like you mentioned, to provide a message of hope and encouragement to those who you know might be feeling despair, contemplating suicide, or, you know, even self harm. Can you share a bit more where the name Ripple came from and what it means?
[00:02:05] Absolutely I decided to call my charity Ripple because on average 135 people are impacted every time somebody takes their own life. There’s a significant ripple effect. From my own personal experience with my family, I’d actually say that the number is actually probably very higher than that. It’s also spelt with a semi colon for the eye. And that again has been a very deliberate inclusion, because the semi colon is symbolic of surviving suicide. So that really is how I came up with the concept and the name ripple.
[00:02:39] As you know you mentioned you know with the name of Ripple and on average 135 people are impacted. There are also, increasingly alarming statistics, especially recently with the pandemic and it continuing. What do you find are some of the most concerning suicide and Internet use specifically?
[00:02:55] Yeah, so I’ve worked recently with a company called SEMrush who did some data analysis and research in this field. And from their research, they found that searches for suicide methods have actually increased by 50% in the last two years. And the biggie for me is that searches for suicide hotlines or helpline numbers have also increased that by 125% since January 2019. These are really concerning statistics and I think they have been really exacerbated by the pandemic, where lots of people are feeling isolated alone and forced into communicating online. Unfortunately, it does come with a negative and that can be seen in those statistics which are extremely worrying.
[00:03:43] I know it’s a bit crazy where we’re still continuing, you know, going through the pandemic and that increased need for mental health awareness. So those are some really distressing numbers, and there’s a definite need as you’re mentioning for intervention and support for those who are struggling, which the ripple tool does that? Can you explain a little bit more about how the Ripple tool works?
[00:04:03] Yeah, so once the tool has been downloaded, it really acts as an interception or an interruption when somebody carries out any searches. It’s a browser extension tool, but I’m also working collaboratively with Netsweeper to actually ensure that Ripple features on Wi-Fi networks and can intercept anybody carrying out those searches whilst on those Wi-Fi networks going forward as well. So, in a similar way to a filtering service that perhaps blocks content that’s harmful we’re not blocking content, but we are intercepting them and coming up instead with a page of support and a message of hope that redirects users to get that support that they need.
[00:04:47] It’s really amazing and you know there must be a lot that goes into getting a tool like Ripple off the ground and you’ve gained so much support from so many in such a short period of time. You have mentioned Netsweeper but how has Netsweeper helped on this journey you’ve been on so far?
[00:05:01] Netsweeper have been phenomenal really from day one with me. Not only are they helping me with regards to getting Ripple the traction it needs amongst the industry, but also, they’ve actually helped make happen things such as getting Ripple onto Wi-Fi networks. You know they’ve already got the platform and the technology to do that, and they are making it easy for me because this is something that is for the greater good. This isn’t a business we’re a charity and Netsweeper are helping me to save lives effectively.
[00:05:33] Which is really amazing to be able to, I mean, I have read some of your work and just you know being able to save one person is totally worth it. So now that you know our audience is a little bit more familiar with Ripple and the Ripple tool, what have some of the outcomes been since founding?
[00:05:50] So the tool itself was launched on the 10th of September, which I deliberately chose because that was World Suicide Prevention Day. Since that day, the tool has now been downloaded over 100,000 times. And it’s saved 22 people that I know of that have actually approached me directly to tell me that they are still here because Ripple intercepted them and if I’m really honest with you, I’d actually say it’s probably 23 lives because Ripple has given me a purpose and it’s allowed me myself to carry on and have a reason to get up each morning.
[00:06:26] To have people reach out and be able to tell you that for something you’ve created is really must be a fantastic feeling for you. Those are some really great results, especially for those people you’ve been able to help. It’s been a short time since starting Ripple. You’ve achieved a lot in a short period of time. Looking forward, what are your some of your long-term goals?
[00:06:43] So the next steps for me are to ensure that Ripple is compatible with mobile and tablet devices. At the moment Ripple is a tool that is available on laptops and computers. I’m very aware that young people in particular are fixated on mobiles and tablets, and so if I can get Ripple on those devices, I think it’s going to reach a huge amount, more people and hopefully save a lot more lives. I’m also looking to roll out and deploy ripple globally, so at the moment this is a tool that is based in the UK but starting quarter one of 2022 we’re going to be launching Ripple state by state over in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and even Japan. So, there’s lots to come for Ripple next year and I think, really, that’s the focus for my team and I going into 2022.
[00:07:34] That’s really amazing to be able to have Ripple reach farther than the UK as you mentioned, which you know takes a lot of people. How can people get involved or support Ripple?
[00:07:43] So there’s a number of ways that people can help and get involved in Ripple and support what I’m trying to do. One of the things is to promote Ripple with any businesses or corporate organisations that you come into contact with. This is something which is for everybody. You never know what people are searching for and businesses, particularly with the fallout from the pandemic need to put additional layers of mental health support in place for people that might need it the most. I don’t charge for Ripple for anybody at all. Parents, individuals, schools, colleges, universities, charities, libraries and so on. But I do charge businesses and corporates to deploy Ripple and that’s purely because I’m a charity and to enable me to get to my goals of going global and getting Ripple out on different devices like mobiles and tablets, I desperately need funding and people to get behind me. All of my pricing is on my website its ripplesuicideprevention.com, so I think that’s the first thing. The second thing is to follow Ripple on all of our social media platforms. That is, Ripple Suicide Prevention on Instagram and Facebook. On LinkedIn it’s Alice Hendy, Ripple Suicide Prevention, and on Twitter is @rippletools. Please support me. Retweet the content. You never know who might need to see it on a particular time or day.
I’ve also created a petition which I’m looking to get as many people to sign as possible. What we’re looking to do is to get the likes of Apple, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia and so on, onboard with Ripple so that they actually can have something like this downloaded as a default on any of their devices. At the moment, if I go and get a new device from the local phones stop, it already comes with Facebook and Instagram on it. Why isn’t it already coming downloaded with some suicide prevention or mental health interventions on there? So please help me by signing my petition. And really just spread the word. The more people that download this, the more lives will be saved.
[00:09:44] There are really so many ways that people can support Ripple, especially even just like you’re saying with word of mouth and sharing and spreading, you know, mental health is something that really affects all of us both directly and indirectly. As we start this new year and you mentioned what you’re looking for going forward. What are your hopes for the future of Ripple and especially around mental health awareness?
[00:10:05] I think my overall hope is to try to reduce the stigma surrounding this topic. Unfortunately, it is still a very sensitive topic for people within their jobs and employment. They feel like they can’t be honest with how they’re feeling. The topic of suicide, in particular, is still classified in many places as a taboo topic. I know from my own personal experience. I’ve had friends that I’ve known for over 20 years that have stopped talking to me. They don’t know what to say to me. They tread on eggshells. And we need to normalize this as a topic because until this happens to you, you really do not realize how horrendous losing somebody to suicide is. It’s not like normal grief. It comes with so many other emotions and trauma to be honest. And if you’ve actually been impacted by suicide yourself, you’re 65% more likely to actually go on to take your own life. That’s how serious this is. We need to normalize the topic. It needs to be part of our conversations, and we need to break down the barriers and the stigma surrounding this as a topic.
[00:11:08] So just before we finish up, it’s been so great to have you here today to talk more on this topic. Do you have any closing comments or thoughts you’d like to leave with the audience?
[00:11:20] I think really the only thing for me is to thank Netsweeper, particularly Perry Roach, Craig Butler, John Robb, and yourself for supporting Ripple, but actually also supporting me as a person. You’re going out of your way to do the right thing and support a charity that is aligned with your ambitions and will make a real difference and the support I’ve received both from the charity perspective and from a personal perspective has been phenomenal. So, I’m very grateful and privileged to work with Netsweeper and I’m looking forward to what we can do together going forward in 2022.
[00:11:56] I can echo that sentiment back. We are looking forward to what we can continue to do to work together for this cause and for Ripple. So, I just want to say a huge thank you again for joining us today. We appreciate you taking the time to share your personal story and the incredible work is that I no doubt will continue to help many, many young people. Thank you so much again.
[00:12:16] Thanks Alison.
[00:12:17] Thank-you for tuning into this episode of Inside the Sweeps. If you want to hear more check out our previous episodes on Spotify or Google Podcast. Stay up to date with all news related to Netsweeper head over to our website netsweeper.com or follow us on our social platforms. You can find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
For more information on R;pple, suicide prevention tips and mental health; check out some of our blog posts:
- Fighting Together to Prevent Suicide
- Screen Time and Mental Health: The Connection Between Social Media Use and Depression