By Brooke Adams, communication specialist, University Marketing & Communications
U students who may be facing a personal crisis or challenge — or know someone who is — now have immediate help at their fingertips.
The University of Utah is making the SafeUT app, which provides real-time confidential crisis intervention through live chats and calls, available to students. The program is operated and staffed by University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI). The U is the first higher education institution in the state to sign on to the program.
“It is another method for students to use, something they may be comfortable with, to connect with a counselor if they need to,” said Lori McDonald, associate vice president and dean of students.
The free app, which you can download by clicking here, enables users to connect immediately to a licensed crisis counselor via live chat or a call. Users also can submit confidential tips on bullying, threats or violence to school administrators through the app.
The app is designed to help young people who are in a high-stress situation and in immediate need of speaking to someone, McDonald said. Counselors are prepared to address topics that include depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, loss and grief, drug and alcohol problems, self-harm, bullying and cyberbullying, relationship issues, etc.
Most school districts in Utah are now using the app, said Barry Rose, manager of UNI Crisis Services. Each month, the program receives about 5,000 calls and roughly 2,000 live chats and tips.
The app provides a familiar, non-threatening way for young people to communicate about their feelings, Rose said.
“This is a tool they can use with any kind of crisis they are in,” Rose said. “Students typically won’t call a crisis line like we offer, but they will text to us.”
Rose said that for live chats the primary issue raised is suicidal thoughts; for tips, it is bullying, followed by suicidal thoughts.
“Our goal is to provide a tool of support and intervention so people get the services they need and are kept safe,” Rose said.
The U’s participation in SafeUT comes as Utah grapples with a rise in suicides, particularly among youth. According to preliminary data from the Utah Department of Health, there were 642 suicides in the state in 2017. Of those, 44 were youth between the ages of 10 to 17 and 90 were among young adults ages 18-24.
Gov. Gary R. Herbert has announced creation of a community-based task force to come up with recommendations for suicide prevention. Two members — Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, and Ross Van Vranken — have U connections. Eliason, who is a co-chair of the task force, is a financial manager for U Hospital and Clinics. Van Vranken is the CEO at UNI.