The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released a new mobile app aimed at helping behavioral health providers reduce the risk of suicide among their clients. The app is available for Apple and Android devices.
Suicide Safe includes a number of tools based around the five-step “SAFE-T” suicide prevention program, which in turn is based on the American Psychiatric Association’s Practice Guidelines for the Assessment and Treatment of Patients with Suicidal Behaviors.
The app easily walks a provider through evaluating and addressing the five parts of the SAFE-T program, which include
- Risk Factors: These can include factors such as psychiatric and family history, access to firearms, and interpersonal precipitants or stressors, such as despair over recent financial or health status.
- Protective Factors: These include both internal and external factors that would protect a person from suicide, such as a feeling of responsibility to one’s children or religious beliefs.
- Suicidal Inquiry: This portion includes asking specific questions about suicidal ideation, planning, behaviors, and intent.
- Risk Level Assessment: At this point, a provider assesses the client’s risk of suicide based on the previous three sets of factors.
- Documentation: Here, the provider is prompted to document the assessment of risk, the rationale for the determination, and interventions and follow-up to reduce risk if needed—for example, calling your client’s psychiatrist or making contact with significant others.
The Suicide Safe app also includes many other features to help you reduce the risk of suicide in clients, including
- Fictional case studies that demonstrate the SAFE-T in real-world settings, such as “Leon” the 24-year old veteran and college student with a history of substance abuse and PTSD.
- “Conversation starters”—with tips for how to discuss suicide with any client, including sample questions, such as: “Have you thought about ways that you might hurt yourself?”
- Treatment locators to help find additional services for clients in need. We tried out the treatment locator for our geographic area, and found contact information and more on a number of different service providers, including an inpatient hospital psychiatric unit, a partial hospitalization mental health facility, a substance abuse halfway house, and a large psychiatry and therapy practice.
- Other resources, including phone numbers to the major national suicide crisis prevention phone numbers, and training tools, including tips on ICD-9 and ICD-10 coding for suicide prevention and resources for continuing education credit.
A Modern Prevention Tool for Behavioral Health Providers
The Suicide Safe app was launched on the 10-year anniversary of SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), which to-date has answered nearly seven million calls.
“Suicide devastates lives throughout all parts of our nation, but it is a public health issue that is preventable. SAMHSA is working to provide people on the front lines with resources they need to save lives,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “Suicide Safe is a major step forward in suicide prevention. The app gives behavioral and primary health care providers an essential and modern prevention tool at their fingertips to help address suicide risk with their patients.”
The app also includes a number of culturally specific suicide prevention tools for those who treat Native Americans and other tribal populations. Suicide rates among American Indians and Alaska Natives are 1.6 times higher than all other U.S. races. More information on those features can be found on the SAMHSA website and in the guide, To Live to See the Great Day That Dawns: Preventing Suicide by American Indian and Alaska Native Youth and Young Adults.
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