Wilmington, NC – April 9, 2019 — PS Solutions, a software development firm with offices in Wilmington, NC, as well as Pittsburgh and Altoona, PA, last month released a new app designed to help identify those at risk for committing suicide which utilizes the renowned Columbia Protocol. This free smartphone app provides instant access to simple questions which have been successful in helping identify suicide risk. Blair County, PA was the first to develop an app using the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) and provide local contact information to nearby crisis centers. The app is now offered in North Carolina and can be customized to connect directly to local crisis centers.

“North Carolina’s suicide rate is higher than the national average,” said Wayne Hippo, co-founder of PS Solutions. “That’s one of the reasons we wanted to bring this free app to the attention of our citizens and those who serve this community. It’s a way to help members of our community who need it most.”

The free iOS and Android app provides access to the C-SSRS, which prompts a few simple questions that gauge when an individual is at risk for suicide then recommends an appropriate level of mental health support. The list of questions can be answered within a few minutes. App users are also offered contact information for crisis centers, which can be customized to include local contacts.

“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.”

More than 20 years of research validates relevance and effectiveness of the C-SSRS. Seen as the gold standard in assessing suicide risk, it is globally. 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.

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; one life lost every 40 seconds.

The idea for the app came from Blair County Pennsylvania, and it is the first county to offer customized local information. Other regions are encouraged to provide local crisis centers contact information, which is based on a user’s phone location. Information on app customization is available through email: info@PSSolutions.net.

PS Solutions is a software development firm headquartered in Altoona, Pennsylvania, with offices in Pittsburgh and Wilmington, North Carolina. PS Solutions takes a creative approach to solving companies’ technology problems, employing a diverse group of software and project management professionals to develop software in the U.S.

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It’s a sobering fact: Suicide is the number 1 killer of adolescent girls. It is the second-leading cause of death among all people ages 15 – 29. It is no wonder, then, that the Blair County (PA) Commissioners are anxious to find a way to curtail this threat to our next generation.

During the Blair County (PA) Commissioners meeting on January 8th, 2019 (watch the TV report), the commissioners voted to fund a new app to help first responders and county social workers determine the risk level for suicide. PS Solutions was awarded a contract to develop an app that utilizes the Columbia Lighthouse Project’s protocol, which establishes a series of guidelines for helping those at risk.

The app, which will be operational on both Android and Apple devices, is being developed by PS Solutions. The concept, however, came from the Blair County social services director.

“We spent years carrying around little cards with questions and color-coded answers on them,” said Jim Hudack, Director of Blair County Social Services. “What happens when you can’t find that little card? I’ll tell you – I’m never without my phone, so I asked Joe if creating an app would be possible.”

The Columbia Lighthouse Project’s Suicide Prevention App provides a list of questions to ask, ranging from “have you ever felt like taking your life” and “if so, have you ever thought about how you would do that?” There is a color-coded system for responses, helping to alert the person asking the questions to whether there is an urgent need for help (red) to if it’s a typical situation (green).

The app will provide a resource primarily for first responders but is available for use – for free – by anyone. It is currently in development, with delivery expected by early February. For more information, call PS Solutions at 814-942-7888.


Pittsburgh Tech Council

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