Review of Suicide Risk Assessment Applications

A short post today; while considering embarking on a side project to develop an iOS or Android application it occurred to me that suicide prevention and crisis intervention are areas where mobile applications could certainly come in handy (as well as case management.)

I downloaded an Android emulator and several free apps to prevent suicide:

  • HELP Prevent Suicide
  • R U Suicidal
  • Safety Plan
  • Suicide? HELP
  • Suicide Test

None of them were particularly useful, they all seem to follow a similar layout.

Android Suicide Prevention Applications

HELP Prevent Suicide

This application includes a link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the NSPL phone number, warning signs, some strategies for laypeople to help (asking about suicidal thoughts, listening and connecting to others) and a list of helplines. Most of the apps tended to follow this model.

R U Suicidal?

This application was unique in that it focuses on a series of videos. (There’s another version of this app for your spouse or significant other.) Recorded by a Psychologist, the intent is that you’ll watch the video, and then it pauses at points to allow you writing space for your feelings.

I found the videos un-engaging and the lack of a seek bar to move through the video or any text accompaniment means if I were in a crisis I likely wouldn’t sit through them.

Safety Plan App

This app, like the name says, just does safety plans. It gives some prompts and allows you to write information on warning signs that trigger suicidal or self-injurious thoughts, coping strategies, contacts, and so on. Because there are no defaults or examples you’d likely need a second person to help you bounce ideas off of.

Suicide Test App

The most interesting app of all was simply called Suicide Test. It had 20 yes/no questions, and then scored them to tell you your suicide risk. The font was terrible and some of the questions nearly unreadable but I liked the idea and the simple interface.

Building a New Suicide Risk Assessment Application

If I were to design a new suicide risk assessment application (and it’s on my to-do list), it would feature the following:

A comprehensive suicide risk assessment tool that meets the NSPL standards

  • A layman’s quiz to help them flesh out their own suicide risk
  • A support network/safety planning document with suggestions to help stimulate filling it out
  • Links to helplines
  • Information for both the suicidal person and the third-parties who may be viewing the app on how to reach out for help and to be non-judgemental

No application currently on the market meets these requirements, which is a real shame. Before the end of the summer I hope to have a prototype with which to begin usability testing. Watch out for it!



Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2015), "Review of Suicide Risk Assessment Applications," retrieved on November 17, 2017 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/review-of-suicide-risk-assessment-applications/.

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