Smartphone 'Hope Box' to Reduce Suicidal Thoughts

App will be tested through VA hospital in Portland, Ore., and could eventually see wide distribution.

One of the strategies clinicians use to help potentially suicidal patients remember reasons to continue to live is a “hope box” filled with photos of loved ones, recordings of favorite pieces of  relaxing or inspirational music and notes on future plans.

Patients are told to keep “hope box” – which could be a shoe box, a manila envelope or a plastic bag – nearby and go through it when suicidal thoughts pop up.

But, it’s not easy to carry such a box around, so Nigel Bush, a research psychologist at the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, part of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, has started to develop a virtual “hope box” application to run on a smartphone.    

The app will include photo and videos of friends and family, music, digital “coping cards," relaxation exercises and helpline phone numbers.

Once development is completed, Bush plans to test it with patients at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Portland, Ore., and, if it proves effective, the Center plans wide distribution.