By Sgt. Nathaniel Free
Public Affairs Office
A suicide prevention and awareness app that went live in December has already reported preliminary success, according to Robert Spencer, Suicide Prevention Program Manager of the Utah Army National Guard, Feb. 12, 2020.
"What SafeUTNG has done is provide a simple pipeline for service and family members to anonymously reach out and get needed help for themselves or someone else,” said Spencer.
The app, known as SafeUTNG, was designed to support Utah National Guard service members and families in crisis. It’s free to download from the Android and Apple app stores, providing service members and their families with a safe, confidential platform to communicate with a crisis counselor 24/7.
In a span of only two months since going live, the app has been downloaded nearly 800 times from the Apple and Google Play markets (541 downloads from Apple, 253 downloads from Google Play). From these downloads, behavioral health providers from the University Neuropsychiatric Institute received 15 tips, which resulted in 42 confidential in-app chats and 817 threads. A thread is the online equivalent of a conversation. Each tip had an average of 65 conversations.
“I strongly recommend each and every Service Member download the SafeUTNG app, whether they feel they are in a crisis or not,” said Brig. Gen. Michael J. Turley, adjutant general, Utah National Guard. “I have full faith and confidence in the behavioral health providers working behind the scenes at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute to make this app possible. We’ve seen firsthand how it can save lives.”
The SafeUTNG app can be download via Google Play:
or Apple App Store:
The app works similarly to the SafeUT app, which was introduced to middle and high school aged students in 2018, and has already been credited with saving lives, according Spencer.
“Speaking up when in crisis, whether it’s in person or over the phone, can be uncomfortable for many,” said Spencer. “Communicating via apps or text has been the main way in which Soldiers and Airmen prefer to correspond."
Using the SafeUTNG app, service members can initiate a live confidential call or chat with behavioral health providers to receive help or lifesaving tips. The app is managed 24/7 by the University Neuropsychiatric Institute in partnership with the UTNG. Depending on the severity of the situation, UNI can activate local emergency response. Tips not deemed emergencies will be forwarded to privileged UTNG behavioral health providers. In case of emergency or active crime, the app encourages users to call 911. (Note: It is a crime to send false reports). This app serves as another tool to enable Soldiers and Airmen to help others or find help for themselves.
“Several of the Soldiers I work with have used the chat function on the app,” said Capt. Juliann Jeppsen, Director of Behavioral Health for the Utah National Guard. “I personally know each and every behavioral health provider on the other end of that chat.”
Jeppsen spends most weekends working at the UNI call center or going out with mobile crisis teams. Jeppsen said, on average, the response time for chat messages are less than 30 seconds. She has been working on the development of the app for nearly two years, and provided the behavioral health experts at UNI with specialized military training to better understand the everyday challenges faced by Utah service members.
Every service member who downloads the SafeUTNG app will carry a virtual lifeline in their pocket.
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