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Crisis Intervention Technology Spotlight: Telemental Health and NAASP

Computer screens in rows displaying telemental health images

Crisis intervention technology continues to leverage Web and mobile space, leading to improvements in service efficiency and reach. Increasingly, organizations such as the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (NAASP) are reviewing tele-medical strategies for suicide prevention.

About NAASP

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (NAASP) has a lofty vision: a nation free from the tragic experience of suicide. The organization hopes to save 20,000 lives between 2010 when the nation was founded and 2015.

To complete actualize its vision, NAASP created Zero Suicide Advisory Group. Zero Suicide is NAASP’s strategy of expanding suicide prevention in healthcare systems. Its primary concern is patient safety.

The strategy comprises six components:

  • Creating a culture of zero suicide by confronting the culture of pessimism and hopelessness in healthcare organizations regarding making any real progress in suicidal cases.
  • Ensuring every person has a pathway to care by providing screening tools and promoting screening options.
  • Developing a competent workforce by training healthcare providers to handle situations involve suicide.
  • Identifying and assessing risk level  during primary care.
  • Using effective, evidence-based care by employing data-backed studies that indicate that suicidal ideation should be treated directly and not as a symptom to a problem.
  • Continuing contact after care by providing critical follow-up interventions to ensure the ongoing safety of patients.

Virtual/Remote Suicide Prevention

One way that NAASP will carry out its suicide-prevention goals is technology-based care. This involves administering crisis intervention services remotely.

According to NAASP, virtual or remote care can keep give suicidal persons constant access to help throughout all hours of the day and night. This involves multiple crisis intervention strategies, including existing strategies of phone lines, emerging strategies including text and chat, and developing strategies including telecounseling, online video counseling, and self-assessment.

According to a 2013 report published by the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), telemental health is one of the most active telemedicine applications rendered in the United States. The service delivery strategy is efficient and allows clinicians to broaden their reach to patients. Telemental health can even be delivered over mobile devices – an extremely fast growing method of communication.

It may be that, in the future, telemental health and crisis intervention services will work more closely together. Where in the past, crisis intervention services could only be accessed from a phone, now a person can only speak, text, and chat with a crisis counselor via mobile phone, but also teleconference with a professional clinician as well. Further, all of this can take place in a short amount of time, and for less cost to the client than ever before.