Suicide Prevention and Intervention Apps
Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States. For children, teens and young adults ages 10 to 24, it is the second-leading cause of death. In recent years, suicide prevention and intervention apps have been designed for those at risk of suicide, as well as for parents and health care providers.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), research suggests that once a person attempts suicide, they are more likely to die by suicide later. The highest risk period is directly after a person has been discharged from the hospital. The HHS recommends a series of steps that family members and friends can take after a loved one attempts suicide to help prevent a future attempt: reducing the risk of self-harm in the home by removing items like guns, drugs and alcohol; helping their loved one create a safety plan; and providing a supportive environment of help and self-care.
Newly emerging apps, most of which are easily downloadable to mobile phones, have the potential to assist both caregivers and patients after a suicide attempt.
“Apps are a great way to leverage mHealth (mobile health) technology to enhance continuity of care for suicidal individuals after discharge from an acute care setting,” said Kimberly O'Brien, Assistant Professor at Simmons School of Social Work.
O’Brien is the co-creator of Crisis Care, an app designed for suicidal teens and their parents to help prevent suicide attempts. The app has two modes — adolescent and parent — that function in different ways. The adolescent mode provides teens with cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and coping strategies, while the parent mode advises parents on how best to help their child.
Crisis Care is still in clinical trials, but there are other apps available that health care providers can share with their patients to assist in recovery. Following are five apps that health care providers, patients, and their loved ones can use to address treatment and settle back in at home.
- Suicide Safe
Suicide Safe is an app designed for providers to help integrate suicide prevention tactics into their medical care. Of those who die by suicide, 45 percent visited a primary care doctor in the month before their death, and 20 percent spoke with mental health services. With features like training in the Safe-T approach, quick access to crisis lines and fact sheets, and the ability to search for nearby treatment locations, the app strives to help physicians’ offices be more effective spaces for at-risk patients to find treatment options.
Designed to be an almost all-inclusive app for your mental health, ReliefLink aims to provide all of the tools necessary for teens during the high-risk period after a hospital visit. While providing information on help centers, built-in coping tools and emergency planning, the app also provides mood and behavior monitoring and reminders. Teens can track their mood daily and set reminders for medication or a daily walk in the sun, whatever will help them be and stay healthy.
Safety Plan was developed by the New York State Office of Mental Health to increase suicide prevention awareness and serve as a tool for teens to get immediate help. The app provides teens with the tools to identify people they can call for help, warning signs to be aware of, and tips on coping strategies and identifying safe environments.
Designed for teens, My3 creates an easy go-to interface where those at risk can get in touch with three emergency contacts, 911, and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. There also spaces in the app for a safety plan and suicide prevention resources.
Stay Alive is a customizable suicide prevention app whose features include quick access to support helplines, a spot to fill out a safety plan, and a LifeBox where users can upload photos reminding them of their reasons to stay alive.
Of course, no app is a substitute for seeking help from a crisis hotline or from a mental health professional. However, in this technology-driven world, apps can be key in assisting individuals between appointments. During what could be a critical time for teens, help is available at the touch of a button.