Your comments

How about a shortcut like Ctrl+Shift+N which will open up a new private chat in which you can @ mention one or more people to bring them directly into the private discussion with you?

Alternatively, how about a general feature where, if you @ mention someone that is not in the private group, Ryver will prompt you, saying that the person is not in your private group and offering to add that person?

As an admin, I don't want access to private messages because, I know that if the users know I could view their messages, it will stunt their participation and I don't want that. I want people to have a "safe space" where they can discuss whatever they want.

The auto-complete should work not only in a chat, but in a search this would be helpful as well.