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From Prevention to Crisis: The Wide Range of SafeUT Support Services

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From Prevention to Crisis: The Wide Range of SafeUT Support Services

Feb 14, 2024

Explore the SafeUT app's comprehensive approach to mental health intervention, as explained by Denia-Marie Wright, clinical mental health counselor and SafeUT manager. Designed for immediate and confidential access to mental health counseling, SafeUT extends its support beyond Utah's students to include parents and educators, making it a versatile tool in addressing the mental health crisis facing Utah's youth.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: SafeUT is a crisis chat and tip line app that provides real-time crisis intervention for K-12, higher ed students, parents, and guardians of those students, and educators, right from your smartphone. Now, it provides a way to connect with licensed counselors at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute who are ready to listen to any size crisis or concern at no cost for Utah residents.

Now, to better understand the type of services that are provided and the type of help that these counselors can provide, we're joined by Denia-Marie Wright. She is a clinical mental health counselor and the SafeUT manager.

Addressing Utah's High Suicide Rates

Now, Denia-Marie, let's start with why this app was created.

Denia-Marie: So the app was created several years ago around 2014. Even before then, 2013, there were questions by our state legislators about how we solve this horrible issue we have of high suicide rates in our youth in Utah.

So the suicide rate in Utah was just unacceptably high for those between the ages of 10 and 24. We were learning that our youth were not interested in calling and talking to anybody on the phone about their challenges, but that they were interested in sending text messages and having more of that generationally familiar form of communication.

It was developed between the Utah state legislature and Huntsman Mental Health Institute. There was a commission created called the SafeUT and School Safety Commission, which is chaired out of the Utah Attorney General's office. All of these folks combined to answer this need for services to our youth.

Who Can Benefit from SafeUT?

Interviewer: Now, I know that the app is really focused towards youth and kind of dealing with this extremely high suicide rate from 10 to 24. But is the app only for those younger people, or can, say, parents or educators use the app too?

Denia-Marie: What we understand about mental health, about suicidal thoughts, about just life challenges and crises in general is that they don't happen in a vacuum. And so if somebody is struggling at school, chances are there's a connection at home with academics, with friends. And so the genius of this app is that it's really available to anyone connected to students in Utah.

So if you are a college student, you can use the app. If you are the parent of a college student or an elementary school student, you can use the app. If you are a teacher, you can use the app. So it's really wonderfully encompassing of everyone in those categories.

SafeUT Services and Resources

Interviewer: I guess one of the things as kind of a lay person to this situation is when I hear that this resource is available and they're ready to listen to any size crisis or concern, what kinds of questions are people texting in about? What are people asking about and getting help with?

Denia-Marie: Well, it really is incredible if you think about the service and the opportunity that we have just right at our fingertips. And it is truly for any type of situation. We really look at it as an extra tool in the tool belt that we all have of our support for life.

And so you may have a therapist, you may have a strong support connection in your life, but you might have something that happens at school or at work that just really, really shook you and you need someone to talk to right now. That's what we're here for. We're for those "right now" moments at 3:00 a.m., at 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon. You just send a text and you can talk to somebody about it, and it's wonderful.

Building Trust

Interviewer: Now, these days, parents have a lot of concerns with their kids talking to people through their phones, right? If a parent is, say, skeptical, what kinds of conversations are these mental health professionals having with these young people so that a parent might feel a little more comfortable with it?

Denia-Marie: We truly see ourselves as another trusted adult resource in the person's life, but not the only resource. And so we are always encouraging folks with parents and guardians to go back and talk to those trusted adults in their lives about what they're talking to us on the app.

And so there's a lot of fear and a lot of concern of, "Oh, but am I going to be accepted? Am I still going to be loved, or am I going to get in trouble if I share these thoughts?"

And a lot of our work with these young kids is saying, "Your parent, your guardian, your family, they care about you. They want to know these things. Let us help you practice. Let's help you talk to them." We're even willing to do a phone call or have the parent join in on the text with us.

Interviewer: And what about, say, parents? What kinds of things can they call in about?

Denia-Marie: Same thing for parents in terms of any type of situation really related to parenting or to your children and students in school. You can talk to a counselor confidentially. You don't have to worry about sharing your name, your information, your details. You don't have to go through the process of signing up and waiting for an appointment. You can just get out your phone and send a message about truly anything.

There's a spectrum of concerns that we see. It can be family issues, relationship/work issues, parenting questions, personal mental health struggles.

It's an incredible resource where, in under two minutes or less, a parent can pull out their smartphone, pull up a website on their laptop or computer, and talk to a licensed mental health counselor. It's just an incredible resource that our state has to offer parents. And it's no cost to the user, which is, again, just a wonderful resource we wish everybody knew about.

Ensuring Privacy and Confidentiality

Interviewer: Now, you had mentioned that the conversations were confidential and secure. Can people expect their information to be secure?

Denia-Marie: You are spot on that there's . . . We live in a world where data is shared in so many different ways, and that's a question that everybody who has a phone needs to ask of, "Where does my information go? Who sees this?"

We have a very strong commitment to our users' privacy and their confidentiality. And we have a strong commitment to keeping people's information confidential.

When people text in, we don't ask for names, addresses, phone numbers, or anything like that. We really try to empower folks to know that they can talk and be really open and transparent about what they want to say without worrying about who's going to find out or who's going to hear about it.

Accessing Mental Health Support Outside of Utah

Interviewer: Now, SafeUT sounds like an amazing resource for people in the state of Utah, but what if someone's listening to this and they're outside of the state of Utah and find that they might need some mental health help?

Denia-Marie: While we've got SafeUT in Utah, and we're very proud of what we do for our Utah residents, we also work with the 988 chat and text line and phone line, and we can attest to the high quality of work that is provided to those counselors that answer the texts and phone 24/7 as well.

We would encourage folks who are outside of Utah and listening to this to try out 988. You don't have to have an immediate crisis. They are very willing and welcoming of folks who are just curious and say, "Hey, I heard about you on the radio and I want to know what you do. What can I talk to you about?" It's just such a wonderful resource that we would encourage people to use.

Accessing the SafeUT App

Interviewer: And finally, for people that are in the state of Utah, again, those K-12, higher ed students, the parents and guardians, and educators of those students, where can they go to get access to SafeUT?

Denia-Marie: So SafeUT is available in the App Store and on Google Play. If you just type in SafeUT, you'll see our light blue logo pop up. You can also check us out at our website, We have a web version where you can chat and send in a tip there as well.