Using digital technology to prevent suicide
Using digital technology to prevent suicide
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The Association québécoise de prévention du suicide (AQPS) has partnered with other suicide prevention organizations to create Quebec’s first digital platform for suicide prevention. Aiming to meet the different needs of the population (individuals in distress, concerned friends or family members, anyone bereaved by suicide), the challenge was to design and set up a complete ecosystem including an information site, online self-assessment tools and a chat service to refer users to a professional based on level of urgency.
A period of in-depth research revealed the needs of people affected by suicide, mental health professionals and the social workers who answer emergency calls. nventive’s designers and AQPS psychologists and specialists then worked in close collaboration to design the different platforms, ensuring that all aspects of the project (website, chat and application) were as appropriate and helpful to the users as possible based on their situations. The entire project is based on recognized tools and an established and coordinated clinical approach widely used by mental health and suicide prevention professionals. A content strategy was established to create a writing guide that would ensure three objectives: that the variety of available content meets users’ needs, that the information is easy to understand for all users, and that the content is optimized for the web. On the technical side, the entire ecosystem was designed using some of the best technologies in the industry. To name a few, all user-related information is saved on the Microsoft Dynamics platform (CRM), the content management system (CMS) was developed on Kentico, the chat services using the Thrio platform, and the solution in its entirety is hosted on Microsoft Azure (cloud computing). The mobile app was developed using Uno Platform, an open-source technology based on Xamarin for programming and launching apps on the App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android).
The aim of the suicide.ca website is to give individuals in distress, concerned friends or family members, or anyone bereaved by suicide all the information they need to help them understand their situation and start working toward feeling better. It includes:
1. Intervention pages to help individuals experiencing personal difficulties identify the different risk factors and understand the solutions available to them
2. Pages covering different topics to reach people facing particular difficulties (substance abuse, financial problems, etc.) that could lead to suicide and that contextualize the online content to help them better recognize their own relationship to these issues
3. Testimonials from individuals who have lived through difficult times to humanize and normalize conversations about suicide
4. Educational information on suicide and to dispel myths on this taboo subject
5. A resource directory that lists all the help resources for their needs and region in one place
In addition, a natural indexing strategy (SEO) was implemented to maximize the platform’s visibility on search engines and better reach people who are struggling.
The chat service—soon available via text message—is a new addition to the help lines already in place. As written communication and spoken communication are so different (hearing emotion in the voice, delays between each sentence, etc.), intervention protocols were developed by the clinical team set up by AQPS and a number of internal tests were carried out so that the professionals could adjust their methodology to this new tool. This approach was a critical step in creating this service to ensure that chat interventions would be as relevant, effective and helpful as phone interventions. A questionnaire and referral system assess the urgency of the situation from the start, directing the individual requiring assistance to a professional in one of the three different call centres. The service blueprint method was used to map all steps of the process, human resources and technologies involved or to put in place.
The My Tools platform is designed to help support mental health, find strategies to cope with difficulties and improve well-being. The mobile strategy offers easy and more direct access to its toolbox and to suicide prevention professionals via the chat service directly in the mobile app.
The platform also provides tools to self-assess, create a safety plan and a self-management plan, do daily calming exercises, view different assistance contacts in one place and keep a logbook. These tools are all directly taken from a proven intervention process used in mental health care. The My Tools platform is available using a web browser or through the mobile app available on the App Store and Google Play.
Download the mobile app on:
Suicide.ca plays a key role in suicide prevention in Quebec. Within just a few weeks of its online launch, the site already had significant traffic, especially on the pages addressing individuals in distress, shortly followed by the app. The professionals have also shared very positive feedback regarding the chat line, and we have been informed that this tool has already made it possible to send emergency services to individuals in danger of harming themselves and thus prevent tragedies. For this kind of project, saving lives is the best result we could possibly hope for.