Mississippi AG Launches App to Combat Teen Suicide
March 15, 2019
By Cristina Carreon
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
A uptick in the state suicide rate is one factor behind the smartphone-based tool meant to provide resources and information to students struggling with depression and other issues.
(TNS) — A new smartphone application was launched this week by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s office to provide resources and information for students struggling with depression, bullying, drug use and other issues at home or in school.
“It is our middle school students right now who are most at risk because they are at an age where they are very impressionable, and a majority of them are not communicating, not only with their friends but also their families,” said Tameka Tobias, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Mississippi.
Suicides in Mississippi have increased in recent years after a drop in 2015. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 445 people committed suicide in 2017 in Mississippi, which was up from 383 the year prior.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which helped develop the Students Against Violence app, suicide has increased among youths who lack sufficient support.
Tobias said youths today will not go into a National Alliance on Mental Illness office to ask for information or help, or even visit the website, but they can pull up an app easily and privately on their phone.
The app breaks out situations into sections and describes how a person might feel, think or experience a specific scenario, such as depression or domestic violence. It also provides a list of phone numbers directly linked so users can call for help from the app by scrolling through a list of local and national resources.
“What we found is that the majority of students and young adults were not getting the help that they needed. Also, the majority of our kids are using their phones, and at this point, we said that we have to meet the children where they are,” Tobias said.
Hood serves on the board of the Jason Foundation, which also helped develop the app. This is the first partnership between the Jason Foundation, which provides suicide prevention curriculum material to schools, and a state attorney general’s office.
The Jason Foundation says on its website that suicide is the second leading cause of death for youths aged 10 to 24 years old, based on CDC national data from 2017.
Jason Foundation president Clark Flatt said the Students Against Violence app is not a replacement for professional or clinical help, but a starting point to help guide youths who are struggling to find a pathway to help.
“Individuals today, especially our youth, many times feel more comfortable utilizing technology to find information and resources concerning issues that may arise in their lives,” Flatt said in an email.
“SAV is a project that utilizes this comfortable platform to provide information, tools and links to resources that hopefully will help make their lives better and address issues that could be life threatening if left unaddressed.”
Flatt said it took four months to design and code the app, which utilizes resources and input from several state organizations such as the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Education, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Mississippi, and The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi.
The app is free and is available on both iPhone and Android devices.
Suicide warning signs include threats of suicide, depression, anger or increased irritability, lack of interest, a sudden increase or decrease in appetite, sudden changes in appearance, dwindling academic performance, preoccupation with death and suicide, previous attempts at suicide and making final arrangements.