Suicide Prevention. Yes, There Is an App for That

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Phone apps can help with items frivolous to serious. Apps that address mental health issues may prove helpful tools in preventing death by suicide.

Laura Jowly is interim director of behavioral health for Rochester Regional Health, eastern region. She said that apps on mindfulness, coping skills and tracking recovery can help patients struggling with mental health issues that can contribute to death by suicide.

“It’s important to know the resources available,” Jowley said. “Apps for journaling can help for journaling emotions. Some apps can help with safety planning.”

Of course, it is important to seek mental healthcare from professionals as phone apps cannot replace this care; however, apps can help support and reinforce the work done in therapy. Apps can also provide a means to supplement the care the patient receives between sessions. That daily or as-needed maintenance may enhance the therapist’s work.

For some people, apps offer a measure of convenience. Emergency care is available 24 hours a day; however, that’s not always what’s most effective during off hours. Sometimes, a nudge in the right direction is all that’s needed.

One app example is Virtual Hope Box, a virtual safety plan. It stores the contact information of people patients can call, music and photos that help them feel grounded, and other aspects of their safety plan.

Kelly Mohrman, licensed clinical social worker and suicide prevention coordinator with REACH VET Coordinator at VA Rochester Outpatient Clinic, said that her organization works with vets to create a safety plan on paper; however, they don’t always carry it around with them.

Most people always have their cellphones with them, making it the ideal means of keeping their safety plan on hand.

Mohrman added that apps for mindfulness “can help bring them down” when anxious.

“Certainly, we have had anecdotal reports that PSTD and mindfulness apps have been helpful,” she said. “There’s no cookie cutter approach for any one person. Finding that fit that works for everyone is key. It’s a different fit that works for each person.”

Free, helpful apps include:

• For veterans

My HealtheVet

Mobile Blue Button for Veterans:

• Mental health:

PTSD Coach,

CPT Coach,

PE Coach,

Mood, depression, and/or bipolar disorder:

T2 Mood Tracker

For more apps, visit

Positive Activity Jackpot

Virtual Hope Box:

Moving Forward


Provider Resilience

Naturally, a phone app is only as helpful as the user makes it. Like any other tool, if it is not used, it is not helpful, so people reluctant to use their smartphones will not benefit from these apps as much as someone who consistently turns to a smartphone for help. Veterans can use the resources at General resources are at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website, or by calling 800-273-8255.