America’s first app designed to help save those with suicidal thoughts has been developed by PS
Solutions and introduced first in Blair County, Pennsylvania. Based on the Columbia-Suicide Severity
Rating Scale (C-SSRS), the Columbia Protocol App provides instant access to a few simple questions that
can help save the life of someone considering suicide.
“Our county’s crisis line has 200 to 400 calls every year,” said Jim Hudack, director for the Blair County
Department of Social Services and person responsible for the initial idea. “This app is another way to
offer help to the members of our community who need it most.”
Users download the iOS or Android app to access questions that gauge when an individual is at risk for
suicide; it then recommends an appropriate level of mental health support. The list of questions can be
answered within a few minutes, after which users are offered contact information for local and national
“We need to get everyone in our communities asking these questions,” said Dr. Kelly Posner, Director of
the Columbia Lighthouse Project, “Just think of how many lives we can save if every parent, police
officer, teacher and neighbor downloaded and used this app.”
With over 20 years of research to validate its relevance and effectiveness, the C-SSRS is seen as the gold
standard in assessing suicide risk and is used by governments, schools, and communities across the
globe. For people who have thought about suicide, simply being asked these questions can come as a
relief. One study found that asking the questions reduced distress in depressed respondents.
Blair County operates one of the busiest crisis centers in the state of Pennsylvania, despite having a
population of 124,000. In Blair County, 23 residents took their own lives in 2018, a 64% increase from
the 2016 total and above the national average of 14.5 deaths per 100,000.
According to a March 2019 study conducted for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the
increase in the national suicide rate from 2016 to 2017 was the largest annual increase in nearly 20
years. Suicides rose by 4% from 2016 to 2017 and 22% from 2008 to 2017. Worldwide, almost 1 million
people die by suicide each year — equal to one life lost every 40 seconds.
PS Solutions, headquartered in Altoona, Pennsylvania, with offices in Pittsburgh and Wilmington, North
Carolina, was chosen by Blair County to develop the app. The app will work as-is nationwide, sending all
callers to the national hotline; it can also be customized by PS Solutions to include contact information
for hotlines in other counties, cities, and states, which would be delivered based on the user’s phone
TO DOWNLOAD: Search the app store for Columbia Protocol. It will say it’s by “PROFESSIONAL STAFFING SOLUTIONS, LLC.”.
It can be found on the Play Store for Android or the App Store for iOS
Altoona Development Center
1601 Eleventh Avenue
Altoona, PA, 16601
Pittsburgh Development Center
1500 Ardmore Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA, 15221
Wilmington Development Center
2109 Capital Drive
Wilmington, NC, 28405