SafeUT App lets students report anonymous tips, connects kids with crisis counselors

Utah students now have a new way to stay safe in the palm of their hands.  The SafeUT Crisis and Safety App went live, Wednesday, and experts say it has the potential to save lives. 
"Suicide is the number one cause of death amongst Utah children ages 10 to 17," said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. 
It is that staggering statistic, along with personal experiences, that led Utah State Senator, Daniel Thatcher to organize a simple system that connects kids with all sorts of resources, from mental health professionals to law enforcement. 
"Every kid knows how to install an app," Thatcher said. 
The SafeUT app allows students to report tips about school safety threats, drug/alcohol abuse, bullying, and anything else.  With a single tap, students can also call or chat with 24-hour crisis counselors from The University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI).
"We will give them referrals, we'll talk with them... We can follow up with them if they like, so we have a full range of options," said Barry Rose, Manager of Crisis Services at the institute. 
Everything reported remains totally anonymous.  Public officials, educators, and researchers together decided that a confidential, technology-based system was the way to go, after doing some homework. 
"We went out and talked to the youth.  We asked them, 'What would you really want?  What would make you comfortable enough to report these traumatic situations?'" Reyes recalled. 
Students create four-digit passcodes to access their accounts.  Once in, users can easily navigate through selecting any of several categories of concern.
The app is now live and available for any students to use.  Over the next year, every school in Utah will have the chance to receive program training for administrators as well. 
"If we are really going to solve this problem -- if we are really going to make a difference -- then that answer has to be as big as the problem that we are facing," Thatcher said. 
Those involved are asking for support not only from local schools but also from parents, as the mental and physical safety of Utah students are facing serious threats.
"The rate and type of bullying has increased with cyberbullying, the rate of shaming..." Reyes said.
The app is available in multiple languages and connects kids with resources across the state. 
SafeUT also has a new lifeline phone number for students without access to smartphones.  That number is 1-800-273-8255.

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