Daily Record

I lost my brother to suicide, now I’m working to stop others losing theirs

Alice Hendy MBE tells Amy Packer about her sibling’s tragic death and how she has devoted her life to preventing other families from going through the same trauma

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Alice Hendy is trying to put into words the emotions she felt after hearing her only sibling, her brother Josh, 21, had taken his own life in 2020. “Devastated, lost, alone, guilty, angry, sad,” said Alice, who was 29 at the time.

“I felt like my world stopped turning at the moment I was told. I sometimes still feel that now.”

The family lived in Stubbingto­n in Fareham, Hampshire, and while Josh’s mental health had deteriorat­ed, Alice was blindsided by the loss.

She said: “At the time I didn’t see any signs that Josh was planning to take his life. He was finding things difficult, but at no stage did I believe he would do what he did. It was the midst of the Covid pandemic when everyone was struggling with their mental health and well-being.”

It was only later that she discovered Josh had been going online and conducting searches on how he could end his life.

Alice said: “In the months prior to his death, he was visiting harmful forums and websites which provided him with step-by-step instructio­ns and encouragem­ent to take his life.”

Suicide among children and young people has increased in recent years, as have self-harm rates. Of these suicides in the under-20s group, 20 per cent have a suiciderel­ated search history.

Alice, who worked in IT and cyber security, said: “I knew there had to be something we could do to mitigate this risk, so I created R;pple, technology that intervenes when someone is conducting harmful online searches and instead signposts them to mental health support services.

She added: “In today’s digital world, we are surrounded by technology and devices which often make our lives easier and more efficient. But sadly, it’s also becoming an increasing­ly popular channel to find informatio­n about disturbing and harmful content.”

A new survey by the Family & Kids Youth Agency on behalf of Ofcom has found that

children as young a primary school age are viewing violent and distressin­g content online, and social media platforms are causing children to share harmful content that may feature their peers. Profession­als have expressed concern that this might be affecting the mental health of children. “Young people’s mental health can also be impacted by social media as it can be used for cyberbully­ing and can exacerbate insecuriti­es like body image as well as worsen feelings of anxiety and depression. It is important to be vigilant on how children and young adults use the internet,” said Alice. So what can people do if they think a loved one is at risk? “Talking openly with them and being

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Prior to his death my brother was searching the net on how to kill himself

honest is very important,” added Alice, who was awarded an MBE for her work.

“Talk to them about what they’re reading and watching, who they are communicat­ing with and how these platforms and people make them feel.” Parental controls are also very useful. “Platforms like R;pple are free to use and can be easily downloaded on to desktops,” explained Alice. “Once installed, if a user searches harmful content online, they will first be guided through a filter of breathing exercises and then the technology will provide a selection of helplines and mental health services they can access and use.

“These are accompanie­d with messages of encouragem­ent, using a database of keywords and phrases configured within the tool relating to suicide and/or self-harm.”

As of April 2024, R;pple – which is free to use for the general public, the education sector and parents – has been downloaded two million times, has interrupte­d over 40,000 harmful online searches, and saved at least 29 lives.

“Setting up R;pple has given me a reason to open my eyes each morning,” said Alice. “Knowing that it has helped, and continues to help, gives me a purpose in life.”

■ This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. If you are struggling with your mental health, call Samaritans on 116 123 or text 85258.

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 ?? ?? LIFESAVER Alice has helped prevent many suicides
LIFESAVER Alice has helped prevent many suicides
 ?? ?? TRAGEDY Alice with her brother Josh and, below, as youngsters
TRAGEDY Alice with her brother Josh and, below, as youngsters

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