Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and the Ulster County Suicide Prevention Education and Awareness Committee have created an app, available on both Apple and Android devices, to provide an easily accessible resource designed to help recognize the warning signs of suicide, according to a letter from the SUNY New Paltz Office of the President to all students.
The Suicide Prevention, Education and Awareness Kit (SPEAK) app was originally unveiled to the public in Nov. 2013, exclusively for the Apple app store but has recently been released for Android on the Google Play store, according to Community and Government Relations Associate at New Paltz Rich Winters.
“We learned about the app when it was available for iPhone only. Given the many students who have Android devices, we shared app information after it was established on both iPhone and Android platforms, in order for the maximum number of students, faculty and staff to access this important new resource,” Winters said.
According to the app’s description on the Google Play store, SPEAK is meant to assist users in identifying signs of suicidal behavior in friends and family and immediately connect to expert assistance if needed.
“It’s not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment, but rather a ‘first line of defense’ that offers some solid information and useful tools that they can use to help someone they love make it through a difficult time,” the description reads.
The free app acts as a guide which provides the user with warning signs that correspond with levels of risk and also advises the user on what to say to someone who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. Additionally, SPEAK supplies the user with resources which contain local, state and national contacts, and instant call buttons for immediate help that link to local, national and Veteran hotlines. The app was designed in conjunction with mental health professionals to be a “powerful tool” in the hands of anyone who may be in a position to prevent tragedy, according to the app’s press release from 2013.
“Suicide can devastate families and is an extremely serious concern all across our nation. Many of us have been, or know someone who has been affected by suicide,” Hein said in the press release. “If this app can help just one person make it through a difficult time or save even one life, then its success is immeasurable.”
The press release credits suicide as the eleventh leading cause of death for all Americans and said that approximately 1,300 New Yorkers take their lives each year. According to the same statistic source, approximately 150,000 New York teenagers will attempt suicide each year and 70 will die as a result.
“The national rate of teen suicide has tripled since the 1950s and it is now the third leading cause of death for New Yorkers 15 to 24 years of age,” CEO of Mental Health Association in Ulster County, Ellen Pendegar, said. “We know that recognizing the signs of suicide early and getting someone the help they need quickly can buy enough time to help them reconsider the value of life and avoid irreversible harm.”
The New Paltz administration agreed.
“We wanted our campus community — a significant number of students and employees who live and/or work in Ulster County — to be aware of this important new resource,” the letter from the president’s office reads. “The College is also here as a resource for students and employees who may be in need. Students can speak with the counseling center, and employees may contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).”
The app is currently available in app stores listed as ‘Ulster County SPEAK.’