Miami University offers students Just In Case app

Kip Alishio, director of Student Counseling Services at Miami University in Ohio, is the first to admit that he comes from a different generation, having work in the world of student counseling for 30 years. So when a colleague told him about an app to help students with depression, he wasn’t sure about it.

“I didn’t really know if it would be helpful to our students,” Alishio says.

Miami University elected to be part of the pilot program for the Just in Case app. The app makes it easy to provide potentially life-saving information to students. Developed for suicide prevention, colleges can adapt the app to also offer resources to students about alcohol and other drugs and sexual assault.

Miami University’s app focuses on suicide prevention. The University launched the app during Welcome Week in the fall of 2013. Since then, about 10 percent of the student population has viewed the app.

From August 2013 to the end of May 2014, the app has had 8,243 page views from 1,528 unique visitors. The most popular page is the page titled, “I can’t cope….” and the second most popular is “I’m worried about a friend . . .”.

Michelle Vargas, project coordinator for Suicide Awareness and Prevention at Miami University, says while there is  no way currently to know if more students are getting help as a result of the app,  this past Spring semester set a record for number of students seeking counseling service. 

“We had two classes review the app and the feedback we received is that they loved it because of the privacy,” Vargas says. “You can do a mental health self assessment privately on your phone. The students appreciated that.”

Vargas says the Miami staff was very pleased by the student feedback. Here are a couple of the statements students shared:

“Wow I think this is awesome! It is surprising to see a university care so much. Some schools ‘say’ they are all for their students, but for Miami to actually do something like this is awesome. I mean, this app even offers assessments and people to talk to about your problems. It seems super easy to navigate which helps out in its own way. Way to go Miami!!”

“This is wonderful! I am so glad that Miami has this for their students. It seems like the rates of mental illness have gone up especially when you are in college and the stress of exams and classes are skyrocketing. I'm proud to go to a University that has this to help their students.”

Vargas says the app is one more way to reach students and there is no doubt students will need help. Alishio says the latest research reports in any given year 8 to 10 percent of college students will consider suicide and about 1 percent will make an attempt.

“The sooner we can connect with someone and give them an outlet to express themselves and reassure them, the much greater possibility they won’t attempt suicide,” Alishio says. “Early intervention is important.”

Alishio points out that students can access the app at anytime, day or night, weekdays or weekends. It’s a resource 24/7. 

The app does cost colleges and universities, but both Alishio and Vargas say they feel it is worth it for the Miami community. They also want other schools to know the app can only work if students know about it.

“It really does take a lot of work to advertise it and increase awareness of the app,” Vargas says. “I recommend that other schools advertise it in newsletters, social media and meet with student groups to promote it. Partner with students organizations so they can publicize the information; that helps to decrease the stigma of mental illness as well.”

Miami’s Just in Case app is funded by a Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Grant for suicide prevention on college campuses. The Just in Case app was developed by eReadia. NASPA institutions get preferred rates to develop the Just in Case app on their campuses. For more information, visit the Just in Case site or contact Will DeLamater for details.