Nov 4, 2014 · 2 minutes

Radar, a service which allows its users to monitor certain Twitter accounts for alarming tweets related to suicide or other mental illnesses, is a horrible tool made with the best of intentions.

The organization behind it has been praised for raising awareness around mental health and what people can do to help those who suffer from these illnesses; but it's also been criticized for creating a surveillance network that analyzes and stores tweets without someone's permission.

Both perspectives are viable. There's nothing wrong with wanting to help the mentally ill, just as there's nothing wrong with criticizing a company for gathering (admittedly public) tweets for its own purposes. How you view Radar depends on what you value the most: health or privacy.

But those aren't the only things wrong with Radar. It's also worrisome because it assumes that it's okay for someone to have every single one of their friends' tweets monitored because they're worried about their mental health, as if it's up to them to decide someone needs to be spied on.

As someone who lives with a whole bunch of mental illnesses, which run in my family like you wouldn't believe, I can say that feeling like the star in a morbid reality show is one of the worst things about trying to cope with these disorders and all the problems they cause or exacerbate.

Living with these disorders is like walking around with a wet blanket wrapped around my head. Breathing is hard. Focusing on anything outside my involuntary shelter is difficult. Doing pretty much anything besides shoving food into my face while watching "Sons of Anarchy" sometimes feels impossible. The bitch of it is that these problems aren't even the worst to try to live with.

No, the worst part is knowing that every action, every word is being held under a microscope. I can't be cranky without someone asking if I took my meds. I can't be upset without being told that maybe I should visit the doctor. It's becoming increasingly hard for people to see who I am instead of the illnesses I have. Radar is like all that on a much grander, more horrifying scale.

Imagine finding out that someone you considered a friend was using Radar to keep track of your tweets. At that point it seems like the friendship, that even following each other on the network, is less about actual communication and more about making sure you don't decide to off yourself. How would you feel? How would you react? What would you think?

Wanting to help people suffering from a mental illness is an admirable desire. Making them feel like there's nothing about them besides that illness, or like they need to be monitored to ensure that they won't do anything to hurt themselves, though, isn't going to help anyone. If anything, it's going to take an almost unbearably difficult situation and make it even harder to handle.

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, Radar has just provided the construction crew with an abundance of material.

[illustration by Hallie Bateman]