App aids suicide prevention ‘Just in Case’
Published: Friday, September 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 22:10
Video credit to Miami University students Lacey Mendenhall, Ashley VanBuskirk and Jordan Hancock.
Miami University Student Counseling Services (SCS) has recently released a new app, “Just In Case,” to help increase awareness about suicide prevention and equip students to address psychological distress in friends or in themselves, according to SCS Director Kip Alishio.
The app was developed by the National Association of Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) organization in cooperation with eReadia LLC. It was made available to Miami as part of a pilot program, Alishio said.
The app, when opened, provides scenarios that illustrate situations one might be in, such as: “I can’t cope,” or “I’m worried about a friend.”
“If you click on any of those, it opens to information on how to determine when you or a friend may be experiencing psychological distress or where emergency services might be needed,” Alishio said. “It gives you numbers to call and it does this for all three campuses, so this is relevant for students on the regional campuses.”
Junior Torey Sweeney said the app will help students by giving them an initial place to go when symptoms of depression arise.
“If they’re feeling depressed at least they have something look at, somewhere to start,” Sweeney said.
The app is part of a broader ongoing suicide prevention initiative, but was made possible with SCS’s receipt of the three-year federal Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Suicide Prevention Grant last year.
“We spent a lot of the last year organizing ourselves and developing a plan for how we’re going to proceed and what initiatives we think are really important,” Alishio said. “What we emphasized is training people in the Miami community so that they would be able to be aware of when a friend or a student seems to be experiencing a period of psychological difficulty, being able to engage them and refer them to services.”
Alishio said one of the major efforts has involved purchasing and putting into place a free online gatekeeper training program that any Miami faculty member or student can use. The program is called At-Risk and helps facilitate the Just In Case app by assisting faculty and students in determining when somebody may be at risk for hurting themselves or others.
The Just In Case app was customized for Miami to include a link to the gatekeeper training and information specific to resources in the Miami community, such as SCS, according to Alishio.
Currently, the app can be downloaded by going to the address http://codu.co/aca32c on a smartphone, but Alishio said SCS plans to make the app available on its website and on the Miami app, which can be downloaded in iTunes, in the future.
“We’re hoping that it will help students to increase their awareness about suicide prevention and psychological distress and break down the stigma that they might be carrying with regards to getting help by recognizing that students do from time to time need that kind of help,” Alishio said. “Intervention is the best prevention, so the earlier people can recognize they are struggling with some issues, it is much less likely that they will ever get to the point that they will harm themselves.”
According to the facts and figures on suicide published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2012, suicide is the third leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 24 and the second among people aged 25 to 34 years.
The prevalence of suicidal thoughts and suicide planning and attempts is higher among young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 than among adults over the age of 30, according to the CDC.
Senior Alexandra Ma said the app will provide students anonymity.
“It helps you stay anonymous,” Ma said. “Some people don’t want people to know what’s going on in their lives.”
Ma said she does not think many students know about the local resources available to them if they are facing psychological distress, and the app will help direct them to those services.