SafeUT report shows increased utilization and suicidal ideation amongst students

The SafeUT Commission recently released their 2020-2021 annual report, which outlines key statistics in the utilization, chats, trips, and demographic data on the free mental health crisis app. The report found increased app usage, increased chats and tips on suicidal ideation, and greater use by those in high poverty communities. 

 

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SafeUT is a free app and website providing mental and emotional health support for students, frontline health workers, and members of the National Guard in Utah. The app was created in 2015 for students to address the youth suicide problem in Utah, and recently expanded services to the National Guard and health care workers in 2019 and 2020, respectively. 

The app is a two-way communication crisis line to a mental health counselor and is a place to make calls, have text chats, and provide tips for others who might be at risk in their local community. 

The report mainly focuses on data from students since the other two platforms are still in their pilot phase. 

In fiscal year (FY) 2021 — July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 — the report found a total of 30,527 chats and tips from the app. FY 2020 saw 21,854 chats, which shows about a 9,000 chat increase this year. Of the 30,527, 133 were from the National Guard, 83 were from frontline health care workers, and the rest were from schools. 

SafeUT also expanded their reach to more students. The report said the app reached 850,790 students in FY 2021, which is about 50,000 more than FY 2020 — 802,373. SafeUT also reached 2% more Utah students this year at 89.8% of total student reach. 

Schools can partner with SafeUT to give school administrators access to tips coming in through the app so they can act in a timely manner. Of all K-12 schools and universities in Utah, 87.8% are enrolled in SafeUT. 

Ric Cantrell, chair of the SafeUT Commission, said:

“2020 was a challenge for everyone. The data shows that SafeUT played a heroic role connecting people with the care they needed, right when they needed it most.”

According to the report, SafeUT had 298 life-saving interventions from all three platforms. If a user is actively attempting suicide or has plans to harm themselves, counselors on the app connect with first responders or school personnel to actively rescue that person.

There were a total of 6,274 tips on the app, with the majority of them being for suicide. 

 

Image: SafeUT Commission

 

Cantrell said:

“The intensity and duration of conversations on the app grew significantly during the pandemic, as an increasing number struggled with suicidal thoughts and other mental health impacts. The SafeUT team stepped up to the challenge, provided professional solutions, and saved more lives than ever before.”

The report said in areas where COVID-19 transmission and cases were highest, SafeUT saw higher counts and more intense chats for suicidal ideation and other related struggles. This implies increasing pandemic-related stress led to increased usage of the app, according to the report.

An increase in utilization was also found for those with higher poverty rates, according to the report, and could be because of a cultural predisposition to not ask for help, less service awareness, less access to the technology, or less support through the school. 

Rachel Lucynski, business operations manager of Community Crisis Intervention and Support Services at Huntsman Mental Health Institute, said:

“The data suggests that the mental health impact of COVID-19 has been greater for SafeUT users who also have difficult economic stressors and very little access to any other mental health support. This helps us better understand the complex issues that our users may be facing, and we can create better ways to offer support through the program and our partners.”