A mobile phone app is set to be launched in a bid to stop troubled people from committing suicide thanks to work by two Midland universities.
The program will allow people to fill in an online assessment form to establish whether they are at risk of harming themselves or others.
The tool, called myGRIST, will then help direct the patient to clinical mental heath support, say researchers at the universities of Aston and Warwick.
Dr Christopher Buckingham, a senior lecturer in computer science at Aston University who has helped to spearhead the research, said: “The tool helps people take steps towards visiting their doctor or seeking access to local support networks if they have any mental health concerns.
“The aim is to identify people with hidden issues, who may find it difficult to otherwise communicate their problems to family and friends.
“This could include assessing and managing risks such as suicide, self-harm and harm to others.”
Dr Buckingham has worked with Dr Ann Adams from Warwick Medical School, as well as key NHS and mental health practitioners to develop the psychological assessment app.
The online advice built into the tool has been developed from a database of 500,000 mental health assessments and judgments provided by more than 3,000 medical professionals over the last five years.
It has been piloted with current mental health patients and access will be available online to the general public early next year.
Dr Buckingham added: “It allows people to enter data about their mental health and living circumstances and gain accurate feedback regarding where risks may be occurring in their lives and how to receive appropriate help.
“Everyone has the potential to have mental-health problems and nobody should be ashamed of needing help with them.
“We all have days when we don’t feel like facing the world, when our mood is very low and nothing seems to be going our way.
“Sometimes these problems can be very difficult to handle and it is important that there are places we can go for help and support.”
He said the pressures of everyday life mean people can often neglect their mental health.
“We live in a crowded world but in our minds we can often feel lonely and forgotten,” he added.
And he said the system would “revolutionise” the way mental health illness is treated.
He said: “There will be actions built into those assessments that will activate emails, text messages, alerts, and other support mechanisms depending on the risk levels and their causes.
“It will be a revolutionary new way of empowering people to monitor their own risks in conjunction with a supportive network of practitioners, carers, friends, and families.
“We want to provide a canopy of care for people who may otherwise feel isolated and abandoned.”
The idea of an online tool for the public comes after the team’s previous success of developing GRiST (Galatean Risk and Safety Tool) for the Department of Health. It featured a database developed to provide practitioners from all disciplines with an approach to assessing and managing risks associated with mental-health problems.
The GRiST application is being used by NHS clinicians in secondary care mental health trusts across the country, including Cumbria, Humber and Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
It is also being used by third-sector organisations in the community such as Certitude, Mental Health Matters, Imagine and Mental Health Concern, and by private organisations Raphael Healthcare and Barchester Hospitals.