More and more local schools are rolling out the SafeUT app, a tool that anonymously connects students directly to licensed clinicians at the University of Utah.
It’s an important app in a state where suicide is the leading cause of death among children ages 10 to 17. Lillian Tsosie-Jensen, educational coordinator with the Utah State Board of Education, said it’s vital for the state to direct resources toward supporting students, adding that there’s no way to put a price tag on the life of a young person.
“If you’re saving one life, it makes all the difference in the world,” Tsosie-Jensen said.
She said the SafeUT tipline is unique in that it is staffed by trained crisis counselors, where other tiplines throughout the country are manned by volunteers. The app is geared toward students and parents, but anyone can download the app and call or text a clinician to talk about depression, suicidal thoughts or any other issue.
Once a school has officially rolled out the app, however, students can also submit anonymous tips with concerns about a peer. The UofU clinicians then send the tip directly to school counselors, like Alex Hansen, a counselor at Ridgeline High.
“We’re getting fairly consistent tips,” he said.
Often, Hansen said, students struggling with depression will confide in a friend. That friend may then grow concerned and use the SafeUT app to anonymously inform school counselors. He said Ridgeline receives about five tips per month.
“It reduces some of the hesitation students might have to even talk to somebody face to face,” he said.
The only secondary school in Cache County School District that hasn’t rolled out the app yet is Sky View High School. Tom Olsen, a counselor at Sky View High, said they will hold an assembly in January to introduce the app to students and show them how it works.
Currently, he said, counselors rely heavily on referrals from teachers or other students as well as intervention models and the Hope Squad, a group of student leaders that act as the eyes and ears of the school on mental health issues. Olsen said he is looking forward to having another tool to identify students in need.
While CCSD has been rolling out the app independently throughout their secondary schools, Logan City School District is taking a simultaneous approach. According to an LCSD blog post, the app was rolled out at Logan High, Mount Logan Middle School and all six elementaries last week. Students will receive training this week.
When students were introduced to the app at Ridgeline High, Hansen said counselors encouraged students to download the app and use it when they feel the need.
“Students will reach out and just see if someone is there,” Hansen said. “Within minutes they get instant responses.”