Ulster County Executive Mike Hein commended the SPEAK app for its efforts to promote suicide awareness both locally and nationally.
The app was revealed several years ago and has since been applauded and imitated for its usefulness. SPEAK targets various demographics including adolescents, adults, LGBTQ people and veterans.
“Ulster County aggressively works to deal with the tragedy of suicide and self-harm,” said Deputy County Executive Ken Crannell.
The app contains a number of features. It enumerates possible warning signs of suicide for concerned parents and peers, lists phone numbers to contact for professional help and users can even contact suicide support lines directly from the app.
Ulster County Suicide Prevention, Education, Awareness and Knowledge Coalition produced the app back in 2013. Their mission is to actively engage the community in discussing suicide prevention tactics and educating citizens on how suicide affects peoples lives.
“Suicide can devastate families and is an extremely serious concern all across our nation,” Hein said. “Many of us have been, or know someone who has been affected by suicide.”
In 2016, Hein signed legislation that prohibited cyber-bullying in Ulster County. Jane Clementi, mother of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old who committed suicide after his roommate streamed him kissing another man on the internet, was in attendance.
As the President of the New York State County Executives Association, Hein brought attention to the app and worked to spread the technology to neighboring counties. Orange and Dutchess Counties have developed their own suicide prevention apps. While local governments across the nation have reached out for help creating their own.
Hein has also worked with organizations like the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center and the Maya Gold Foundation.
On Jan. 15, 2018, Hein, along with the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center, established “No Name-Calling” week in Ulster County. The event joined the anti-bullying movement which is sweeping the nation.
Jeff Rindler, Executive Director of the LGBTQ Community Center, also shared his plan to work again with Hein to embark on an anti-cyberbullying social media campaign.
“The campaign targets bullies so they understand what they’re doing and increases reporting on cyber-bullying overall,” said Rindler, who believes increased media exposure is crucial to fighting suicide.
Hein also co-sponsored a suicide prevention event with the Maya Gold Foundation at SUNY New Paltz in 2015. The foundation is dedicated to 15-year-old New Paltz high school student Maya Gold who took her life in October that same year.
The Ulster County Federation of Sportsman also co-sponsored a gun-safety event to prevent gun-related suicides with Hein. They train gun-shop owners to recognize the suicide warning signs to look for while selling guns. They also teach gun owners proper safety and storage of guns and ammunition for gun owners.
Ken Crannell’s most rewarding moment after the app’s release was hearing a young woman tell Hein that the app gave her direction when she had suicidal thoughts last year.
“If this app can help just one person make it through a difficult time or save even one life, then its success is immeasurable,” Hein said.