Smartphone Apps for Suicide Prevention for Students

Monday, November 6, 2017

Some education authorities and colleges are not taking the risk that students considering suicide will download apps containing potentially harmful content or strategies and have released their own. The state of Utah has extended a pilot program launched in 2014 to provide students with smartphone apps for suicide prevention which can now be used by all students in the state to seek help anonymously from a licensed councilor or to anonymously report suspicions about a fellow student´s mental health.

Speaking about the provision to students of smartphone apps for suicide prevention, Attorney General Sean Reyes said: “We’re both excited and hopeful that such a resource will truly provide a lifeline to students who feel that they have nowhere else to turn.” The AG´s comments were mirrored by Sen. Daniel Thatcher who had sponsored the legislation to extend the pilot scheme. Sen. Thatcher said: “No kid is going to Google ‘suicide hotline number’ when they’re in the darkest moments of their lives, but if the app is already on their phone, all they have to do is take out their phone and push one button”.

UC San Diego has also taken advantage of legislation aimed to prevent student suicides. The College´s Department of Counselling and Psychological Services has used funding made available through the Mental Health Services Act to develop and distribute a smartphone app for suicide prevention. The app includes a library of self-help literature, free online mental health screenings for a variety of concerns, and 24-hour contact details for students in need of help. Although another “promising first step” to combat student suicide, more colleges and universities need to provide similar help mechanisms.