At the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week, a new mobile phone App with the potential to save lives has been launched today at Stormont. MLAs, health professionals and educators gathered to hear details of the Here2Help App, developed by Noel McKee of East Antrim Counselling.
Once downloaded, the free tool provides instant access to crisis helplines within two taps on a smartphone. It is designed for emergency situations when someone is in need of immediate crisis support or for friends, families or even strangers, who are faced with the dilemma of assisting someone in crisis. The App means you don’t need to remember numbers or even the name of the organisations providing assistance. You just need to know that you or someone else needs help.
Noel explained, “Northern Ireland has one of the highest suicide rates in the UK and that rate has doubled over the last 15 years. A local bar owner, Jack Creighton, approached me to see what we could do after three of his patrons took their own lives within a year.
“Following research, during which we discovered that no simple crisis Apps were available locally or internationally, we embarked on fundraising to develop our not-for-profit App. We wanted to make the App simple but effective and extremely easy to use.”
The instant connection to a support helpline eliminates the need for someone in crisis, or somebody assisting a person in need, to look for a flyer or card or search though phone directories or online to find the right organisation to approach for help. “In an urgent situation, this can be life-saving,” says Noel.
“Our aim is for this App to be on every single smartphone in Northern Ireland as you don’t know if or when you will come across someone in crisis or indeed will need assistance yourself. Suicide doesn’t discriminate and affects people of all ages and background. Quite simply, this App could save someone’s life and we would urge everyone to download it today.
“We’ve got this far with about £5000 but to take it further and to let more people know about it, we do need more help so we are delighted to see local politicians here to put their support behind the project.”
Health Minister, Edwin Poots, said: “It has been recognised for some time that in our drive against suicide we need to be more proactive in making use of the latest technology and social media. Thankfully, this is starting to happen and Here2Help is another step forward in this direction. The app is a valuable tool in making our communities aware of the help that is available to them and can quickly connect people to the relevant services available in their community; thereby preventing further suicidal behaviour.
“Apps such as this are particularly useful in reaching young people who frequently use technology from a young age and as a main means of communications, so it is vital that they have access to these resources. A child’s journey into adolescence is starting earlier and finishing later than in previous generations. Consequently young people are experiencing many of the personal and social pressures that adolescence brings at a much younger age. With increasing disconnectedness in our society, many young people are left feeling isolated in their attempts to cope with emotional turmoil. Apps have a vital role to play in connecting our young people with available resources and services quickly if required.”
Here2Help also provides advice and can direct users to support agencies for a wide variety of issues including debt, abuse and drugs.
The App is now available to download on smartphones, free of charge, from the Google Play and Apple stores by searching for Here2Help.