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Text Messaging for Suicide Prevention

Young adults in the U.S. have the highest and fastest growing rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, but the lowest rates of mental health care. Attitudinal barriers, such as a low perceived need for treatment, time constraints, and preferences for self-management, are some of the primary reasons for low rates of mental health treatment among this age group. However, despite low utilization of traditional mental health care, young adults are interested in using self-directed digital technologies to help manage their mental health symptoms.

Safety planning is a preventive mental health intervention that is a clinical best practice for individuals experiencing thoughts of suicide and has been shown to be effective for reducing the likelihood of suicidal behaviors, however, it is often only delivered once an individual has made contact with a mental health professional and disclosed suicidal thoughts and behaviors. This gate-kept model of intervention means that most young adults who experience suicidal thoughts and behaviors will never recieve the safety planning intervention. 

To increase access to this suicide prevention intervention, the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies — in partnership with Mental Health America and individuals with lived experience of suicidal thoughts and behaviors — will develop an automated and self-directed safety planning intervention that is integrated into a digital space where young adults already spend a significant amount of time: text messages. 

This project aims to design and pilot an automated interactive safety planning service delivered via SMS that yields highly personalized safety plans and supports use over time. By accomplishing the proposed training goals and research project, this project will generate data to support an efficacy trial.

The PI is Jonah Meyerhoff, PhD.

Project Name

  • mHealth for suicide prevention: Design, development, and feasibility of a scalable SMS-based safety planning intervention


  • K08MH128640 (Meyerhoff)

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