Suicide prevention app trial

An NHS mental health trust is working with US researchers to develop an app that may stop people from killing themselves.

Liverpool-based Merseycare and Stanford University have been in talks on how the technology could work.

The aim is to have the prototype ready by June with the first patients being monitored in January.

There were 6,122 suicides in the UK in 2014 – a 2% decrease on the year before.

The app would allow clinicians to provide round-the-clock observations on people who they fear may be considering suicide.

It would work by monitoring all digital communications by a patient – emails, social media, even phone calls – and spot potential dangers.

Three quarters of suicides are in men.

If for instance someone was tracked as being at a well-known suicide hotspot, or missed an appointment, or even told a friend they were feeling suicidal, the app would alert clinicians who would then be able to contact the person and provide appropriate support.

All patients would have to voluntarily submit to being monitored.

Dr David Fearnley, medical director at Merseycare, said:

The potential is incredible.

We think we can anticipate people who may be likely to harm themselves with greater accuracy than we currently do, and therefore be able to do something about it and save their lives.

Last year, Merseycare committed itself to a zero suicide policy by 2020, meaning they hope to end all suicides of service users.

The initiative requires a new approach across the trust, from staff training to greater patient involvement.

The development of the app is part of that process, and is based on a belief that people are often more open with their friends and relatives than they are with clinicians.

Read full story: ‘Suicide prevention app’ trial

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