Recognizing that we seem to be increasingly comfortable speaking in picture, one counseling service has developed a new set of emoji to help children express themselves in situations where words might otherwise fail them. BRIS, a Swedish non-profit that runs a national helpline for children and teenagers, recently released a free iPhone app, featuring 15 emoji that aim to capture a range of difficult issues and feelings such as physical abuse, self harm (hands up with bloodied wrists), dark thoughts, and alcohol abuse.
"A lot of kids feel really awful for all kinds of different reasons, and [these emoji] are easily understood symbols for some of those different issues," BRIS spokeswoman Silvia Ernhagen told The FADER. "Many children have difficulties in putting words to their problems, so this is a way to help them to express themselves as well as encouraging them to actually speak about their feelings and ask for help when necessary."
Easily integrated into an iPhone keyboard, the emoji can be deployed in conversations with BRIS or any of the other new hotlines that employ texting and between friends or family. The aim, according to Ernhagen, "is to make kids speak out."
Emoji are so often used to be funny or cute, so it’s jarring to see the images edited this way. Worse, it's easy to imagine these images being deployed by trolls. But asked about the potential for backlash, Ernhagen isn't too concerned. "We think that the positive effects are stronger," she said, punctuating the thought with an emoji baring a broad smile.