A new, free smartphone app called SafeUT has been publicly introduced in Salt Lake City with an aim to help Utah students get professional help in times of personal crisis and suicidal thoughts.
Students will also be able to report anonymously bullying, harassment, abuse, threats, drug use, and more, 24/7. The password-protected SafeUT is available for Android and iPhone devices.
The app offers a real-time connection with a licensed professional from the University Neuropsychiatric Institute. It is also available in several foreign languages, St George News reported.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes confirmed that the leading cause of death among kids aged 10-17 was suicide wrote Morgan Jacobsen of the Deseret News.
In 2014 and 2015, Utah Sen. Daniel Thatcher, who admitted being personally affected by the issue, sponsored several bills to research and identify an effective solution. As a result, they launched a pilot crisis phone line, which the Legislature decided to expand. It voted to implement a smartphone app in cooperation with the Utah Attorney General's Office, University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute and Utah State Office of Education.
Sen. Thatcher's 2015 bill included $150,00 in one-time and $150,000 in ongoing funding to the University Neuropsychiatric Institute, reported Benjamin Wood of the Salt Lake Tribune. The app itself was created by donations, confirmed Sen. Thatcher. The public funds were used for hiring two more qualified clinicians for the crisis line and upgrading the system to get text messages, added Wood. Adding a texting feature was of particular importance because some students are too shy to talk about their problems and prefer writing instead.
During his speech at app launch, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said:
"This is a very hopeful day in our state. 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."
Sen. Thatcher added:
This app is the best way to connect children that are in the greatest danger, that have the greatest need, with the people who can save their lives."
All the students who download the app will get training on how to use it properly by their school administration. All schools in the state will be able to join the program, although it is not required. As soon as a school enters the program, it will also receive access to an online tool to help the students report a crime or a crisis via their school's website.
Lillian Tsosie-Jensen, who serves as a comprehensive school counseling program specialist with the Utah State Office of Education, confirmed that it may take additional time before school-specific resources are in place, especially in areas with ongoing training. However, if students from those areas need professional help, they can always contact the crisis hotline.
The Head of Crisis Services at University, Barry Rose, pointed out that the Utah hotline service is different from those in other states because it allows students to talk to local experts in real time.