HEALTHY MIND MATTERS

SafeUT app sees ‘record-breaking’ use in 2023

Oct 31, 2023, 7:34 PM

SafeUT app...

The SafeUT Annual Report shows that over 885,000 K-12 and higher education students have access to the app and over 30,000 chats started across the app’s three versions. The number represents “record-breaking” utilization program leaders and partners said Tuesday. (KSL TV File photo)

(KSL TV File photo)

SALT LAKE CITY — The SafeUT app saw “record-breaking” utilization during 2023, program leaders and partners announced Tuesday.

Launched in 2015, the app serves as a chat and tip line that provides real-time crisis intervention for students, parents, guardians and educators. Over the years, SafeUT has expanded its user base and now connects front-line workers, Utah Air and Army National Guard members and their families with licensed mental health professionals.

Released Tuesday, the SafeUT 2023 Annual Report shows that over 885,000 K-12 and higher education students have access to the app and over 30,000 chats started across the app’s three versions (education, frontline, National Guard).

“With those more than 30,000 chats that were started, we saw 1.1 million back-and-forth messages that were sent,” said Rachel Lucynski, director of community crisis intervention and support services at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute and SafeUT commission chairwoman. “This means that users are really engaging in lengthy conversations to talk about life stressors, situational crises that might be impacting their well-being, and engaging with our counselors on ways to de-escalate those concerns and look for longer-term resources and support.”

As far as school safety and mental health concerns, 2023 saw 9,204 total tips submitted from K-12 and higher education — 17% of which pertained to concerns about suicide.

Additionally, 791 tips were submitted for potential school threats or acts of violence, with 25% of tips about guns or firearms.

“This is a function of government funded by the Legislature and some visionaries at (University of Utah) … to really rescue those in their darkest hour,” said Ric Cantrell, Utah attorney general chief of staff and SafeUT commission chairman. “As Thanksgiving comes up, I would like to see a Thanksgiving with no empty seats at the table — where everybody shows up.”

Cantrell said that his favorite statistic from the report is the 536 lifesaving interventions that were initiated for SafeUT users who were actively attempting or at imminent risk of attempting suicide.

“That means there are 536 kids that are alive today that would not be without SafeUT,” Cantrell said. “That’s the stat that hits home for me and I love it.”

In January, a 14-year-old girl who police say was kidnapped while walking home couldn’t reach any of her friends and downloaded the SafeUT app and was eventually rescued by Salt Lake police.

Additionally, the report showed that 94% of users feel the SafeUT counselor “always” or “usually” showed respect for what they had to say and 89% feel the SafeUT counselor “always” or “usually” carefully listened to them.

Dénia-Marie Ollerton, SafeUT program manager, encouraged more students and adults alike to download and learn how to use the app.

“You send (a tip) in and it goes immediately to our team of licensed mental health workers, who then have a conversation with you. They can talk to you about what’s going on and get more information on that situation, and then it’s sent immediately over to that school for further review,” Ollerton said. “If it’s something that needs immediate help, we will connect very quickly with school or with first responders if necessary.”

As far as the future of the program, Cantrell said that the focus is on improving quality and speed and branching out to expand services into more high-risk sectors of the community as funding allows.

“We’ll be looking at how can we continue to evolve so that we can meet the needs of our school partners, of our law enforcement partners and of concerned students and parents that are utilizing our tip feature and reporting those safety and security concerns,” Lucynski said.

The full report can be found at safeut.org.

Suicide prevention resources

Suicide prevention resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call, text, or chat the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 which is answered 24/7/365 by crisis counselors at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. All calls to legacy crisis hotlines, including the old National Suicide Prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255, will also connect to a crisis care worker at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute as well.

Additional resources

Counties in Utah provide services for mental health and substance use disorders. Centers are run by the thirteen Local Mental Health and Substance Use Authorities all across the state and offer therapy, substance use disorder treatment, support groups, mobile services, youth treatment, and more.

These resources and more information can be found here: https://www.uacnet.org/behavioralhealth.

  • SafeUT: Parents, students, and educators can connect with a licensed crisis counselor through chat by downloading the SafeUT app or by calling 833-3SAFEUT (833-372-33888)
  • SafeUT Frontline: First responders, including firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, and healthcare professionals can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUT Frontline app.
  • SafeUTNG: Members of the National Guard can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUTNG app.
  • Utah Warm Line: For non-crisis situations, when you need a listening ear as you heal and recover from a personal struggle, call 1-833 SPEAKUT 8:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., 7 days a week, 365 days a year. · The Huntsman Mental Health Institute offers a wide variety of programs and services including suicide prevention and crisis services, hospital treatment, therapy & medication management, substance Use & addiction recovery, child & teen programs, and maternal mental health services including birth trauma, pregnancy loss, infertility, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. · LiveOnUtah.org is a statewide effort to prevent suicide by promoting education, providing resources, and changing Utah’s culture around suicide and mental health. They offer resources for faith based groups, LGBTQ+, youth, employers, firearm suicide prevention, and crisis and treatment options.

Other community-based resources · NAMI Utah provides education, support and advocacy for individuals and families impacted by mental illness. · American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers prevention programs, public education, support for loss survivors, and fundraising for research. · Encircle Utah: LGBTQ+ family and youth resource center. · Utah Pride Center empowers Utah’s diverse LGBTQ+ community. · The Trevor Project: LGBTQ teen resource center. · U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health · Latino Behavioral Health Services · Center for Workplace Mental Health offers suicide prevention and response for employers

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SafeUT app sees ‘record-breaking’ use in 2023