The story Utah State Senator Daniel Thatcher heard from one of his constituents five years ago was heartbreaking.
Thatcher got a call from a resident in his senate district looking for help.
The man told Thatcher that he and his son had been up all night, talking and crying.
The boy had been considering suicide, and the two felt there were not enough resources available to help people who were considering taking their own lives.
The call pushed Thatcher into action, and eventually lead the senator to sponsor legislation that would lead to the establishment of the Safe UT app.
The app was created as a place for people to give officials details about possible attacks.
Utah’s system is more functional Rep. Steve Eliason (R-Sandy) says, because it provides students with the ability to chat with clinicians about a wide variety of subjects.
The SafeUT app, established in 2015, has seen record usage this year.
From July 2017 to October 2018, the SafeUT app, which relies heavily on the use of text messages, has had nearly 1500 tips about people considering taking their own lives.
The app also received hundreds of tips about students considering using violence around their school mates or in their schools.
From January of 2018 to January of 2019, the app received 534 potential school threat tips, of those only 55 were false or hoax tips.
During that same time, the app also received:
- 218 tips about students with guns,
- 175 tips about planned school attacks,
- 68 tips about “weapons,”
- 61 tips about knives,
- 12 tips about explosives
From February, 2018 to February, 2019 clinicians working for the app conducted more than 22,000 text chat with students or their parents about a variety of issues including bullying, suicide, self-harm and threats.
During that same time the app took in more than 12,000 tips about possible school threats like bombs, guns, and bullying.
Part of the success of the app is attributed to how it works.
Students and teenagers are more likely to chat and give tips via the app because of their comfort with cell phone usage.
Barry Rose, a crisis services manager who works with the app, says the emergency suicide hotline (800-273-8255) has been around for years, but he it fails to appeal to teenagers the same way the app does.
They’ve found kids coming to school with loaded firearms, at one point we were able to find a student at their home and were able to find bomb-making material and weapons, so that’s happened quite a few times actually.
Rep. Eliason, who has been instrumental in securing funding for the app and has been one of it’s top proponents, says he has heard stories of guns and weapons being confiscated from students at the front doors of their schools.
Eliason told 2News:
Knock on wood, Utah has been spared the violence that we’ve seen in other states.
The safe U.T. app is run by the Safe U.T. commission with representation from officials with the Utah Attorney Generals Office, The Utah State Legislature, University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute, Utah System of Higher Education, Utah System of Higher Education, Utah State Office of Education, University of Utah Health IT Department and Utah Department of Human Services.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-8255.