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Anti-suicide app directed at soldiers offers quick help

Anti-suicide app directed at soldiers offers quick help
U.S. soldiers considering suicide might find some help from a smartphone app called "Guard Your Buddy". The app was developed by Clark Flatt, president and CEO of the Jason Foundation, who launched the app in October 1997 following the suicide of his teenage son Jason. Flatt was asked by the commander of the Tennessee National Guard, Major General Terry "Max" Haston, if the app could be used for his soldiers.

According to Flatt, suicides in the National Guard have increased an amazing 450% since 2004. Flatt and Haston plan on getting national publicity for the app by spreading the word throughout the country's National Guard units. Haston says, "We hope soldiers will download this smart phone application and pass it on to their fellow troops to ensure they have someone to talk to in times of trouble. It's difficult to predict if or when a member of our guard family will face suicidal thoughts, but we want them to be able to get help if they need it."

National Guard statistics show that since 2007, 362 Guard members nationwide committed suicide with an additional 23 cases being investigated. According to Flatt, many of those who committed suicide were in the 18-24 age bracket and had trouble dealing with issues like finance and romance. The app has received great reviews. Tennessee National Guard Command Sergeant Major Terry Scott says the electronic nature of the smartphone app resonates with soldiers who are in the age range most prone to suicides.

The "Guard Your Buddy" app offers links to places where someone can go to talk if they are feeling despondent. A "Talk Now" button will connect the user to a master's-level clinician or someone who connect the call to life services. All calls are kept confidential. The app is based on a code of honor in the National Guard that is codified in the phrase "Guard Your Buddy". Flatt says,"If you see your buddy and there are some warning signs, then use this app and get help." He noted that starting on January 1st, all Tennessee National Guardsmen must have on their person a card with the web site and app information for "Guard Your Buddy".

source: Reuters

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