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Another Look at the SafeUT App

December 13, 2018

The need for mental health services on college campuses is growing. More and more students are seeking assistance for issues like depression or anxiety and Utah college administrators are taking notice. As they work to meet the increasing demands, one option they are pointing students towards for help is the SafeUT App. Read all about how colleges in the state are working to help students below. 

 Deseret News: Utah colleges want students to know it’s OK for me to say ‘I need help’

The SafeUT App is effective at providing students with real-time, practical help in the form of crisis counseling, suicide prevention, or referral services. Additionally, students can submit confidential tips to school administrators on threats, violence, or bullying.

The SafeUT program was developed with funding from the Utah State Legislature in collaboration with the Utah Attorney General’s Office, Utah State Office of Education, Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition, and the University Neuropsychiatric Institute

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Take a look at some of the history and success of the SafeUT App from the last year.

KSL5TV: AG Reyes Talks About SafeUT App with KSL

*Florida reference to Parkland, FL shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Highschool

KSL-TV: Safe Schools: SafeUT app uniquely managed by social workers, mental health professionals

Deseret News: SafeUT app making inroads despite 36 youth suicides so far in 2017

Deseret News: University of Utah shouldering growing costs of SafeUT app as use proliferates

Attorneygeneral.utah.gov: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/safeut-app-downloaded-over-5000-times/

Attorneygeneral.utah.gov: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/safeutfeatures/

Change the Culture: Help Stop Bullying

October 31, 2018

Bullying is an age-old reality, but it doesn’t have to be.

Throughout the month of October, schools, communities, and organizations across the nation have been working together to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness of how bullying impacts children of all ages as part of National Bullying Prevention Month.

Stop Bullying, a federal government initiative, reminds us that “kindness is one of the most significant contributors to positive school climate.” In fact, when adults are quick in responding to bullying, students learn that behavior is unacceptable which can help stop bullying over time. 

The question is: what can Utah do to help change the culture throughout the entire year?

Know where you can find help. Better information and knowing which resources are available provides opportunities for all of us to be proactive in shifting the prevalence of bullying in our schools and communities. 

Here are a few ways to do that.

Download the SafeUT App. This app, which the AG’s Office helped create, is available to students and parents and provides real-time help to youth through texting and a private space to submit tips about bullies in their schools. 

Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition is a local non-profit that provides training for students, parents, and educators. Their goal is to end bullying through kindness. 

Utah Parent Center provides information and resources to help parents better understand bullying, its impact, and strategies for prevention. 

Utah Legislation specifically addresses bullying in the state as well as requirements to educators about their role in creating bully-free environments.

Bullying is a behavior, but behaviors CAN change. 

Be a part of the change.

AG Reyes Urges Awareness for Suicide Prevention

Today, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes shared the following to recognize World Suicide Prevention Day

Loss of life due to suicide continues to be a heart-wrenching reality in communities across our state. Utah has the fifth highest rate of suicide deaths among the states and one of the fastest growing suicide rates in the nation. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Utah youth ages 10 to 17 and is 60% above the national average for all ages.

While Utah has made incredible strides over the past few years in addressing this crisis, the losses are still too high. Every life lost represents someone’s child, parent, spouse, partner, friend or colleague. We cannot ignore the impact on our homes, our schools, and our futures.

Today on World Suicide Prevention Day, we remember loved ones who have died by suicide and express our support for those whose lives have been impacted by these tragedies. We also reaffirm our commitment to do whatever we can to provide the necessary resources to help those in need.

I encourage all Utahns to think of those around us who may be struggling and take a moment today to reach out, listen, and show you care. By doing so, we help bring suicide out of the shadows and help eliminate the stigma attached to mental and behavioral health challenges.

If you or someone you know is depressed, bullied, a victim of any abuse or other crime or experiencing a traumatic, life-altering event, these circumstances can lead to thoughts of suicide. Please seek assistance for them or yourself. The 24-Hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is a tremendous resource. There are people who care and want to help.

Please encourage your children and local schools to download and use the SafeUT app. The app allows access to immediate professional attention for thoughts of suicide or other serious mental or behavioral health issues. SafeUT has saved numerous lives already. Feel free to contact the Utah AG’s Office for more information about SafeUT or other resources available in your local community.

Suicide is preventable. The sooner we find out the root cause of pain and eliminate shame and judgment from the equation, the more successful we will be. We need to be honest about things that can make life seem not worth living. Together we can make a difference and save lives.

AG Reyes Urges SafeUT App Use & Announces New Features

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 16, 2018

 

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL SEAN REYES ENCOURAGES SAFEUT USE IN SCHOOLS,
INTRODUCES NEW FEATURES
SafeUT team averages 1,178 students chats per month

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced two new features of the SafeUT app and encouraged schools to enroll and participate in a proven resource that helps keep students and schools safe. The new features, just in time for the new academic school year, include a parent/educator button and access to services for higher education institutions.

“The statewide adoption and response to the SafeUT app has been incredibly successful and effective. But there are still some schools that haven’t integrated this lifesaving tool. If your school is not using this, please ask your school leaders to start. Your voice could save a life,” stated Attorney General Reyes. “Students facing all sorts of crises are reaching out for themselves or others and the app is working.”

“To ensure success, we must provide services that are current, relevant, and meeting the needs of the community,” AG Reyes continued. “By expanding SafeUT’s reach to institutions of higher learning, to parents, and to educators in both English and Spanish, we further empower those impacted by mental and behavioral health challenges. Our mission is to save Utahns, particularly youth, before it’s too late. We connect them to people who are available 24-7, who care for them, will fight for them, and lift them through their current struggles toward a healthier future.”

The SafeUT app, launched in 2016, was geared toward elementary, junior high, and high school students struggling with suicide, relationship difficulties, and a variety of other mental and behavioral health issues. Every public school district in Utah is enrolled, but not every school has taken advantage of the SafeUT app and its services. Eleven new schools enrolled in the SafeUT program for the upcoming school year, which means that 77% percent of K-12 schools in Utah are now utilizing the app.

School involvement is a critical step for schools to ensure real-time communication between crisis responders and school administration for quick action. The addition of the parent/educator button provides the opportunity for educators and parents to ask questions, find resources, and submit relevant information to help protect students and schools.

Adding higher education addresses two needs: 1) immediate support for college students who wrestle with similar mental and behavioral health issues, and 2) greater ability for college authorities to respond quickly to potential threats. These new features combined with current services, which now include Spanish capabilities, expand the program’s reach and effectiveness.

During the 2017-2018 school year, crisis counselors at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute fielded over 15,000 texts and over 7,000 tips. The most common topics of conversation were bullying, suicide, depression, cutting, and drugs. Below are last year’s numbers.

  • Chats/Texts
    • 15,313 chats
    • 1,178 average chats per month
    • 316,840 threads (back and forth interaction between a student and counselor)
    • 21 average threads per chat
  • Tips
    • 7,476 tips
    • 575 average tips per month
    • 23,023 threads per chat
    • 3 average threads per chat

The SafeUT program was developed with funding from the Utah State Legislature in collaboration with the Utah Office of the Attorney General, the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI), the Utah State Office of Education, and the Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition.

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NOTES:

  1. You can find out more about the SafeUT program here: https://healthcare.utah.edu/uni/programs/safe-ut-smartphone-app/#what. 
  2. The members of the SafeUT Commission include: Ric Cantrell, Utah Attorney General Chief of Staff; Lillian Tsosie-Jensen, Utah Public Education System; Spencer Jenkins, Utah System of Higher Education; Teresa Brechlin, Department of Health; Rep. Steven Eliason, Utah State House of Representatives; Sen. Daniel Thatcher, Utah State Senate; Barry Rose, University Neuropsychiatric Institute; Ammon Mauga, Law Enforcement and Emergency Response; Ruth Wilson, Utah Department of Human Services; Barbara Stallone, Community Member; Pam Hayes, Community Member; and Katherine Rhodes, Utah Attorney General Executive Assistant.

Op-ed: Three-digit suicide lifeline is a huge victory for Utah

In an op-ed published in the Deseret News on July 27th, Attorney General Sean Reyes shares the history of the three-digit number for mental and behavioral crises. A journey which started with a few in Utah – and led to the creation of the SafeUT app – reached a milestone as the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelming voted in favor for the creation of a National Suicide Hotline.


By Sean Reyes
Utah Attorney General

With the American public focused on myriad issues in the media, Congress quietly passed a bill this week that is a game-changer in preventing death by suicide and supporting those contemplating it.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for teens in Utah. It has increased exponentially over the past 20 years. And across all age demographics, Utah has some of the highest per capita suicide losses in the nation.

There are many theories about why this is. No one knows exactly all the reasons. We do know there are hyper-vulnerable populations like veterans, LGBTQ youths, and victims of abuse. We know that depression is one of the largest drivers. Bullying, isolation, traumatic incidents, or addiction can also be major contributors.

We also know there is too much stigma, shame, and judgment when it comes to those grappling with mental and behavioral challenges. When someone gets cancer, the neighbors pull together to support them; when someone is diagnosed with mental illness, the neighbors gossip. The person in pain is often assumed weak or somehow deserving of his or her circumstances. Families are sometimes embarrassed.

Some fear that talking about suicide will encourage it (studies show this is not the case). Many lack an understanding of how to even address the unthinkable. Avoiding the topic, though, has done nothing to help those in crisis, those who are hurting and feel alone, those who are silently suffering.

Long before I came into office, I supported friends and families dealing with suicide ideation, suicide attempts and, in the most tragic cases, death. As an ecclesiastical leader, I felt a great responsibility to help but realized my own ignorance and at times, insensitivity. It seemed there were few resources for those trying to support and particularly for those suffering.

When I became attorney general in 2013, I knew we had to do more as a state. Too many youths were turning to suicide to escape pain, loneliness, addiction and mental illness. Even one life lost to suicide is too many. In those days the biggest advocate I could find for suicide awareness was state Sen. Daniel Thatcher. He was informed, full of compassion, and relentless. Many discouraged him and me from prioritizing suicide resources and emergency intervention. Their “friendly” advice was that it was too dark to discuss and would hurt us politically.

Undeterred, Sen. Thatcher and I enlisted the help of state Rep. Steve Eliason in the 2014 legislative session to find ways to help those in crisis. My incredible chief of staff at the time, Missy Larsen, led our office’s initiative and testified with Sen. Thatcher in support of a three-digit number for mental and behavioral crises, similar to 911 for physical emergencies. Political opposition defeated our efforts, so we turned toward a smartphone app that could be a lifeline.

In 2015, with the help of the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute, we created the SafeUT app. Today, trained mental health professionals chat, text, and counsel thousands of Utah teens through SafeUT. The program is credited with saving many lives across the state and has become a national model other states are seeking to emulate.

And yet, even then, we knew it wasn’t enough. The suicide rate remained too high. In 2016, conversations with Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Chris Stewart gave new hope to create a three-digit line — not just in Utah but nationally. Sen. Hatch and his team were amazing. He sponsored legislation creating a national suicide hotline, passing the Senate in the fall of 2017 with the support of Sen. Mike Lee. Since that time, as the lead House sponsor, Rep. Chris Stewart and his dedicated staff have pushed the bill with House leadership, getting it passed this week with a vote of 379 to 1.

Creation of the three-digit National Suicide Hotline is a huge victory for Utah and our country. I thank Sen. Hatch and Rep. Stewart for successful passage of this landmark legislation. This further cements Sen. Hatch’s legacy as one of the greatest protectors of children and families in our nation’s history. I offer my gratitude to the many people around our state who have advocated for this bill, including Chief Missy Larsen, Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, members of the state’s suicide task force who have helped advocate for this measure, and especially state Sen. Thatcher and state Rep. Eliason. Soon, anyone can call a three-digit number and connect with a trained mental health professional who will listen, help, and connect them to resources that save lives.

At the root of all our efforts to prevent suicide is the need to connect, to feel valued, and to feel like we belong. Working together, we can make those around us feel valued and let them know that they matter. We can each do more to end or alleviate the causes of depression, loneliness, victimization, and mental illness. And while we try to diminish isolation and disconnectedness, we now have another tool to stop suicide and help those in crisis know there is hope.

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

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