4. Key Components

Five main features are explained below.

Identifying causes for ideation to understand users

This is the first step to a personalized content. Know your enemies — identifying the causes will help us sympathize with users more.

According to a research conducted by the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare, the leading cause for suicide attempt was mental illness (31%), followed by relationships (23%), arguments (14.1%), financial problems (10.5%), and physical health (7.5%).

I wrote down as many causes as I could from research and experience. I sorted them into five very broad categories, so that all victims can relate to at least one of them.

  • Relationships (loss of loved ones, arguments…)
  • Achievements (academics, career…)
  • Society (gender inequality, sexual-identity, mid-life crisis…)
  • Body & Mind (physical and mental health, addiction, violence…)
  • Emotions (Feelings of guilt, regretful decisions…)

Conversational experience for interaction and engagement

The current automated interface feels impersonal because it is too uniform (besides the sterility of design).

An interface that reacts to users’ actions can give a sense of care and involvement. A sincere conversation, rather than a one-way display, would be much more effective in delivering a personalized message.

Universally effective quote to grab attention

To tone down suicidal thoughts on the first encounter, I needed a striking catchphrase that will at least temporarily hold back suicidal conviction and grab user’s attention.

The first quote focused on the fact that although death might seem like the best option, there will always be better ways with proper support.

“There’s always a better choice than taking your own life.”

This will also trigger curiosity — users will naturally want to stay engaged in the conversation to further explore the “better choice” mentioned in the quote.

The second quote actually came up as I was editing. It was inspired by lines from the original Deadpool comics (Special thanks to my colleague Cheongho for the suggestion).

In this particular scene, Deadpool saves a woman from jumping off a building using his iconic dark humor. When she comes down to the ground, she asks Deadpool to take her back home. Instead, Deadpool takes her to a counseling center and says,

“I’m smart enough to know I am dumb enough that I can’t help you. But they (pointing at the counseling center) can” — Wade Wilson, a.k.a. Deadpool.

This felt electric. I realized how inflated the first quote could sound. I (or the machine) am neither someone who properly understands people’s problems nor who can provide an answer. Search engine is simply a messenger that guides users to professionals who can actually solve their problems. With that, I thought the following quote would be much more appropriate.

“We are only a search engine, and cannot give you answers to your hardest questions. But we can help you get there.”

With a Socratic mindset of accepting the shortcomings, we can finally carve a path to professional help for the users, instead of senselessly providing unqualified advice. Accepting the imperfection can also make things look more friendly and approachable.

Personalized quotes to avoid misinterpretation

One big issue with the suicide prevention bridge in Korea was that the quotes weren’t always effective to everyone. We can avoid this by asking the users why they feel suicidal, and displaying different quotes depending on what the causes are.

Success stories to show that there is a better option than suicide

Even the same words will be more powerful when it comes from people who share similar experiences. Upon reading real life stories that users can relate to, they will want to know more about ways to get support and live through their tragedies just as the survivors did.

www.livethroughthis.org is a great resource for people with depression or suicide ideation. They have inspirational stories from people who survived suicide attempt.

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