'I couldn't save my brother from suicide - but my game-changing tech could save others'

·2-min read

For many people struggling with their mental health, the internet can provide refuge - but for others, it can lead to a downward spiral.

Josh Hendy, 21, from Hampshire, took his own life last year after searching for harmful content online.

Here, his sister Alice, who works in cyber security, tells Sky News how she plans to launch her online intervention tool that could save lives.

I tragically lost my brother, Josh, on 25 November 2020 from suicide. Josh was my only sibling, and passed away too soon at just 21 years of age.

My day job involves working in IT and cyber security, and I have experience working for global financial institutions and insurance firms in London.

After Josh died, I looked at his phone and laptop and I saw that he'd been researching techniques to take his own life.

The content available online following a harmful 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.

I decided I needed to do more to prevent any more lives being lost to suicide. I wanted to make sure more pro-active help and support was given to people in a mental health crisis searching for harmful content.

I thought I would put my IT skills to good use, and so, over the past seven weeks, I have set up R;pple.

I wanted to channel my grief into something positive for others.

Using my contacts across the IT industry, I have secured support from large mental health charities, including CALM, YoungMinds, Grassroots, Hub of Hope and Jacob's One Million Lives, who will all feature on the R;pple tool to signpost users to their support services.

R;pple addresses the lack of intervention and instead shows people an immediate, vibrant display on a user's device once they have been flagged as searching for content relating to self-harm or suicide.

R;pple is an online nudge technique which consists of a powerful message of hope that things can and will get better, 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).

Anyone feeling despair and researching harmful content will be urged to instead seek the mental health support they deserve and need in a way that works best for them.

I couldn't save my brother, but I can provide an interception for others. My only hope is that I can reduce the number of lives being taken too soon through this game-changing tool.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK