Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 21st 2015 Contents A29
• Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
Many mobile dating apps can
be hacked to expose the exact
location of users, warn security
The vulnerability might leave
users open to stalking,
harassment or persecution, said
By spoofing requests to the
servers behind the apps,
researchers were able to track
people as they moved around
during the day.
One app maker has fixed the
loopholes in some nations but
most users are still at risk, they
vulnerabilities were found by
Colby Moore and Patrick Wardle
from cybersecurity firm Synack.
The pair focused most of their
attention on gay dating app
Grindr but said other dating apps
were vulnerable in the same way.
They found that they could
exploit a feature of Grindr that
tells users how far away they are
from other people who have
signed up to use the service and
share where they are. The app
calls on several different sources
of data to provide very precise
measurements of this distance.
"Mental health serv-
ices that are
publicised and responsive; develop-
ing sensitivity, awareness and skills
to deal with the suicidal; a 24-hour
helpline; and post-vention services
(after a suicide attempt, and after
someone s died)"---these are all key
recommendations of Nick Barnes
during a recent visit here.
With pale blue eyes, a shaved head
and a soft-spoken Scottish lilt, Nick
Barnes is a compassionate worker on
behalf of the vulnerable. Born in Scot-
land, he currently lives in Cardiff,
Wales, and is a social welfare specialist
as well as a provider of help for the
suicidal. He founded the group Sui-
cide-Safer London in 2011. He is also
director at Train on the Tracks, a UK
provider of specialist training courses
with strengths in social welfare train-
ing.Barnes visited Trinidad recently at
the invitation of the Catholic Religious
Educational Development Institute
(Credi) to train local first responders
in a short course called Understanding
The three-day course was delivered
in December to prisons officers, first
responders and institutional staff, and
it used tutor-led role-play, mini-lec-
tures, group work and audiovisual
presentations in an interactive, engag-
ing, intensive learning experience to
better equip workers to help the sui-
cidal. In the course, Barnes spoke
about the barriers that may prevent
people at risk from seeking help. He
helped his students learn to detect
some of the signs of suicide, and he
helped de-mystefy the role of the carer
in managing suicide interventions.
Nick Barnes seems to have seen a
fair bit of suffering in his various past
jobs. He was a UK housing caseworker
dealing with people in need; and today,
he s a social welfare specialist (the core
of his work) as well as a provider of
help for dealing with the suicidal.
How does a man who once studied
Film, TV and Performance Studies at
university get involved with such seri-
ous social work?
"They say suicide prevention work
chooses you. You don t choose it,"
said Barnes, "...because there s such
an emotional connection with this
subject, it s such a tough subject for
all of us. We all know someone who
has died by suicide. We all know
someone who has thoughts of suicide.
It affects us professionally and per-
"When I was at university I got
involved with voluntary work for a
youth organisation, and... developed
a flair for connecting with disaffected
young people," explained Barnes: "And
that led me into working with youth
homelessness, which led me to a train-
ing contract with the UK s leading
homelessness charity, called Shelter.
Shelter is a social welfare law advice
organisation, so it provides legal solu-
tions to social welfare problems---
specifically housing. So people with
acute housing need, the homeless,
people being evicted, people in despair.
I worked for Shelter for ten years.
"Working in social welfare law---we
used to call this poverty law---means
you have contact with very vulnerable
people... people who think about sui-
cide. I discovered many years ago that
my clients were killing themselves,
and that was unacceptable."
So Barnes searched for proper
training to know how to deal with it
better. He was then sponsored to
deliver suicide prevention training
programmes in 2007. He s since deliv-
ered such training to more than 5,000
"The outcomes of suicide preven-
tion training are huge," he said.
"Because all we re actually doing is
setting up a situation where it s OK
to talk about suicide. And we did that
today for six hours."
Key learning goals of his course,
he says, are: to understand the signs;
develop the confidence to ask if
someone s at risk; and know how to
ask appropriately. Also key is destroy-
ing the stigma around suicide, talking
about it, and knowing how to respond
appropriately to the needs of people
thinking about it, when they do ask
What if you are worried about
someone, and approach them, and
they feel it is an intrusion on their
privacy? Barnes answered with an
"I don t apologise for suicide; I
care. (I would still ask them---) Are
you thinking of killing yourself right
now? If you are, we need to talk about
that. Because you need help. "
"The stigma is so huge all around
the world that we have to overcome
that, and talk about it. Talking about
suicide is key to preventing it,"
"There was a time we didn t talk
about cancer---20 years ago the stigma
was so big we called it the C word.
We don t talk about cancer like that
anymore. Maybe one day we ll talk
about suicide with dignity. It s a com-
munity health problem," Barnes said.
Are there certain demographics
that are really vulnerable---and more
prone to suicide?
"We already know that globally,
people in the lesbian-gay-bisexual-
transgender community have some
of the highest suicide rates by com-
parison to heterosexuals. Why is that?
Because we still treat people really
badly," said Barnes.
"Young people that are being bul-
lied also have tremendous suicide
thoughts and behaviours," he said.
"Most people experiencing domes-
tic abuse will think of suicide. So, too,
for people who have experienced sex-
ual assault. These are events that, for
many, trigger thoughts of suicide," he
"If you have already lost someone
in your family by suicide, you re more
at risk to do it," Barnes noted: "If
you ve previously tried suicide, you re
up to 40 times more likely to die by
suicide than a person who s never
attempted. So if you keep practising,
then one of these days, you ll die."
"Mental health, depression is a
huge factor in suicide," Barnes said,
adding: "Most people who attempt
suicide have a depressive illness."
Factors that increase risk include
"trigger" events: such as public
humiliation or shame---getting busted
for something; getting exposed about
an affair; getting sent to prison; or
getting sacked from a job, he said.
"Another factor is access to means.
So here in Trinidad, you have access
to all sorts of nasty fertilizers and
poisons. In more developed countries,
they will have restricted access to
those poisons as a direct suicide pre-
vention measure. You could do great
work here in T&T by restricting
access to means. So, gun control;
access to medication, to poisons.
Absolutely the only proven way
to reduce suicide is to restrict access
to means," said Barnes.
Barnes believes in creating "sui-
cide safer communities" which do
everything they can to prevent sui-
cide. This, he said, means commu-
nities which have a leadership group
which creates an action plan that
addresses evidence-based risk--and
acts on the plan.
• Continues on Page A30
Suicide: Misery is survivable
We need to start talking about suicide openly, as a first step towards helping those at risk
Yesterday, SHEREEN ALI discussed the suicide trends in
T&T-about 100 a year that we know of-and the fact that here,
it is still a criminal offense. Many other countries have decrim-
inalised suicide, to make it easier for those at risk to seek help.
The World Health Organisation believes suicide is preventable,
and recommends creating a national suicide prevention strategy,
which can include restricting means (such as weedicides and
guns), reducing stigma, and training health workers, educators,
police and other gatekeepers. Today, Ali interviews Nick Barnes,
who was in Trinidad recently to train staff on how to detect
signs of suicide-and how to intervene effectively.
Nick Barnes visited Trinidad at the invitation of
the Catholic Religious Educational Development
Institute, to train local first responders, prison and
police officers and institutional staff in a short
course called Understanding Suicide Intervention.
PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
Dating apps found 'leaking' location data
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