Suicides have increased across the United States in the first decades of the 21st century. Every state except for Nevada has seen increases, ranging from just under 6% in Delaware to more than 57% in North Dakota. In 25 states, suicide rates have risen more than 30% since 1999, according to the CDC. The CDC also reports that suicide is the third leading cause of death between the ages of 10 and 24, with about 4,600 deaths each year. We have written about OneSeventeen Media’s ThinkingApp designed to help kids make better decisions with A.I. We also covered a study published by Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging which showed machine learning could identify suicidal adolescents by analyzing MRI brain scans.

Research at the University of Texas Southwestern O’Donnell Brain Institute demonstrated the effectiveness of a personalized app called BRITE used as part of an intervention program named ASAP. In a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, teenagers who received ASAP intervention had half the rate of attempted suicides after discharge compared to others who had standard care. Teens in the program rated their mood daily on BRITE. The app offered personalized recovery strategies when the adolescents were distressed. Depending on the person and mood, the teenagers were encouraged to play a video game, look through family photos, watch a meditation video, or call an emergency suicide number pre-programmed in the app. According to Dr. Betsy Kennard, UT Southwestern Professor of Psychiatry, speaking of the BRITE suggestions, “These are some of the coping mechanisms that teens may forget when facing suicidal urges.”

UT Southwestern plans further and larger studies of BRITE and the ASAP intervention program. If the results show success, the tool will be useful nationwide for adolescents hospitalized for suicidal events or ideation. On a broader scale, this is one more example how smartphone apps can play a functional role in the treatment of medical conditions, including mental health.