A free mobile app intended to help prevent suicides by showing behavioral health-care providers how to better evaluate patients at risk was launched Wednesday by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Called "Suicide Safe," it assists professionals to integrate suicide prevention strategies into their practice, including tips on how to communicate effectively with patients and referrals to treatments, according to the administration.
The app was unveiled to also mark the 10-year anniversary of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has answered more than seven million calls since 2005, officials said. It is available on Apple and Android phones, as well as Google play.
“Suicide devastates lives throughout all parts of our nation, but it is a public health issue that is preventable and SAMHSA is working to provide people on the front lines with resources they need to save lives,” Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a statement. “Suicide Safe is a major step forward in suicide prevention. The app gives behavioral and primary care providers an essential and modern prevention tool at their fingertips to help address suicide risk with their patients.”
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Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and it is the second leading cause of death among people age 15 to 34, according to the administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It added that almost half of those who committed suicide have visited a primary care provider in the month prior to their death, and about 20 percent have had contact with mental health services.
Misha Kessler, who survived a suicide attempt and who spoke at the launch, said the app is a good tool for doctors to start conversations with their patients.
"I think that the interesting thing is that people kind of underestimate just how isolating depression can be," Kessler said.
"I do believe it will save more lives because there’s actually statistics about the amount of people that visit clinicians in the time before suicide attempts," he added.
Recalling that his attempt was a result of "self-hatred," he urged those with suicidal intentions not to be afraid to talk to people.
"The possibility that you’re experiencing something that you can get help for, I think that’s what’s most important," he said.
SUICIDE PREVENTION: If you know someone who needs help, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).