SafeUT app saves lives during COVID-19 pandemic

Sep 27, 2021, 6:52 PM | Updated: 10:06 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The SafeUT smartphone app and mental health system immediately started helping children in crisis when it launched five years ago.

Today, it continues to support teens and young adults, mentally and emotionally, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The year 2020 was one of the toughest ever for students from middle school through college.

According to the SafeUT 2021 Annual Report, the smart phone app and mental health system has helped save lives during the pandemic.

“We really see a lot of folks texting in, just with concerns and stress about everything that’s going on around them,” said Denia-Marie Ollerton, SafeUT clinical supervisor, adding that that’s the lasting impact of the app.

Thousands of young Utahns turned to the app for real-time crisis intervention and professional counseling help when the pandemic intensified last year.

People were having much more intense and longer conversations during COVID,” said Ollerton.

Early in the pandemic, usage of the app rose by a 1/3.

Many of the people texting in were thinking about suicide, with conversations focused on fear of the unknown.

They weren’t engaging the app to find COVID testing or vaccination sites; they were looking for mental and emotional support.

“Compared to previous years, we really have had quite an increase in the intensity of the chats,” said Ollerton.

Nearly 300 times last year, somebody got on the app and stated that they had either tried to kill themselves or were thinking about it, and first responders were sent to help.

Tips about specific incidents decreased because there were fewer people in school last year.

“But, the chat feature was highly used,” said Ollerton. “So, that teaches us that people are really looking for somewhere to get immediate emotional support.”

According to the annual report, more than 30,000 tips and chats were submitted to the SafeUT app from July 2020 through June 2021.

Students were connecting with SafeUT because it helped them work through real struggles.

“Especially with having to deal with changes in school — going home and being virtual during COVID, then going back and having to deal with masks or no masks,” said Ollerton.

SafeUT allows students to have a two-way messaging session with a counselor, or submit confidential tips to crisis counselors regarding bullying and threats.

It is staffed by career counselors at Huntsman Mental Health Institute 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“It’s good to know that we’re helping, and we also know that we’re probably not touching as many people as we could, so that’s why we’re wanting to get the word out,” said Ollerton.

According to the report, nearly 90% of all Utah K-12 schools and universities are in enrolled in Safe UT, which includes more than 850,000 students.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Healthy Mind Matters

Vet Jarvie Curtis plays with his new service puppy Lima. (KSL TV)...
Karah Brackin, KSL TV

Puppy power helps Utah vets battle PTSD

Our military service members put their lives on the line for us, pushing themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally to protect our freedoms.
14 days ago
A view of the city of Mariupol, which has sustained immense damage under constant shelling and atta...
Jed Boal, KSL TV

‘Social Media War’ can lead to psychological trauma

In recent years, mental health professionals have learned a lot about the traumatic impacts of war on troops and civilians in the war zone. Research shows the war in Ukraine can also have traumatic psychological impacts on people many miles away.
1 month ago
Tamara Vaifanua, KSL TV

New study finds virtual schooling has negatively impacted mental health for college students

Mental health has declined for many college students who experienced virtual schooling during the pandemic — that’s one of the findings of a new study released by the Utah-based company, Qualtrics.
1 month ago
File: The SafeUT App interface....
Josh Ellis, KSL TV

Weapon removed from Draper school after student reports it through SafeUT app

Administrators say a weapon was safely removed from the Draper Park Middle School campus after a concerned student reported the weapon through the SafeUT app.
1 month ago
The Jordan School District created Wellness Centers in 15 schools. (John Wilson, KSLTV)...
Alex Cabrero, KSLTV

West Jordan schools provide mental wellness rooms for stressed students

A room at an elementary school in West Jordan is getting a lot of attention for helping students with mental health concerns.
1 month ago
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera, KSL TV

Teen treatment: Advice for parents seeking residential treatment options

Utah's $400 million troubled teen industry is facing renewed scrutiny as more than two dozen former residents allege mistreatment and abuse in a new lawsuit.   
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Make Money Online Easily...

4 Ways that You Can Make Money Online Easily in Just a Few Clicks

Here are 4 ways that you can make money online easily in no time at all! Some are as simple as just a few clicks away.
tips to winterize your home...
Bonneville Digital SLC

Tips to Winterize Your Home | The Top 5 Ways You Can Prepare for the Cold Utah Winter Ahead

Before the snow hits, here are the top 5 tips to winterize your home to prepare for the cold Utah winter this year.
SafeUT app saves lives during COVID-19 pandemic