Yik Yak Users Help Peers Cope with Depression

A social media app called Yik Yak is a somewhat unlikely tool for preventing suicide.

A social media app called Yik Yak is a somewhat unlikely tool for preventing suicide.

Yik Yak is an app that allows users to post anonymous messages that others in the same geographic area can read.

At times, Yik Yak has been in the middle of controversy for enabling racism, sexism, and cyberbullying. Because of this, the company decided to block students from using the app on middle or high school campuses--a move known as "geofencing." Meanwhile, it has grown in popularity at colleges across the nation.

Some users have turned to Yik Yak to express suicidal thoughts, and their communities often respond with words of encouragement.

Emily Reiling, a student at Villanova University, told NPR about an instance where a Yik Yak user posted a message saying, “If I were to put up my laptop for free or for sale, would anyone buy it?”

Many responded affirmatively, but the content of the messages changed when someone asked where they could pick up the laptop, and the original poster (OP) replied “at the hospital.”

Reiling told NPR that the community began showing concern and made themselves available to speak with the OP. They also offered things like a hug or free cookies.

Jessica Reingold, a student at the University of Mary Washington, told NPR that a Yik Yak user on campus wrote about feeling lonely and wanting to commit suicide. The response from the community was supportive, and some individuals gave the OP the number to the suicide hotline. Reingold told NPR that she also added a message of kindness, saying she would meet up with him or her to talk.

Nancy Stockton, a mental health counselor at Indiana University, told NPR that the suicide hotline can seek real help from emergency personnel if someone has taken steps to commit suicide. However, she said she is glad students can find support through Yik Yak.

Counselors like Stockton are hoping that Yik Yak users will encourage suicidal individuals to seek help from professionals, NPR reported.