App to prevent self harm and suicidal thoughts

A new app to help people who are considering self harm or having suicidal thoughts is now available to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play. The distrACT app which has been designed by doctors with young adults and University of Bristol researchers to provide easy, quick and discreet access to general health information and advice about self harm.

Nationally, there are around two hundred thousand hospital emergency department cases of self harm reported every year. The number of people who self harm in Bristol alone is around twenty five thousand. It is the highest predictor of suicide, with people who self harm being thirty five times more likely to end their own lives.

Through distrACT, people will find reliable answers to their questions in plain language, anywhere, anytime, and in private.

Expert Self Care Ltd, who developed the app, is a UK social enterprise certified by the NHS England Information Standard as a provider of reliable health information. It is led by practising NHS doctors, and aims to give people at different stages in their lives access to reliable, clear and useful health information on the go, and without the need for an internet connection.

The distrACT app has been created by doctors together with young adults and experts in self harm and suicide prevention, including Bristol Health Partners and the Improving Care in Self-Harm Health Integration Team (STITCH HIT), University of Bristol and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, as well as other local and national organisations. Self-Injury Support and Self-Injury Self Help helped involve young people with experience of self harm in the design.

Dr Knut Schroeder, a GP and founder of Expert Self-Care, said “This app is designed for people when they’re at their most vulnerable. It can be hard to seek help, so distrACT aims to make that process as easy as possible. The young people we worked with have informed the content and design, so we hope that it can become a reliable source of support during difficult times. We named it distrACT for two reasons. People wanted it to be discreet, so we deliberately didn’t use the term ‘self-harm’. And distraction from thoughts about self-harm can help people avoid actually going through with it.”

Designed to work for people of all ages in the UK, it will be helpful to English speakers anywhere who are struggling with self harm. Its aims include:

  • Help reduce the risk of suicides in people who self harm
  • Advice on how to access help in an emergency, lists of useful emergency numbers and support sites, and tips for safety planning
  • Guide people who self harm to further sources of support
  • Encourage self monitoring strategies and self management of symptoms
  • Increase knowledge and understanding of self harm and related issues
  • Give practical tips and provide ideas for safer alternatives to self harm
  • Reduce stigma and dispel myths about self harm
  • Help people develop skills to build resilience and increase wellbeing
  • Support decisions around accessing health services and other means of support

You can download the app on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

This article was updated on April 17th 2018 to include a link to the source article.

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