4MCA.com  /  Operation Reach Out: Suicide Prevention App

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LI company combats PTSD in veterans with app

by John Callegari, Published: February 22, 2012

Vets returning from war are having an increasingly tough time readjusting to society, with many suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Those symptoms, which include depression and despondence, have tragically resulted in many veterans committing suicide, leaving behind grief-stricken families.

Former soldiers represent 20 percent of suicides in the United States.

One Woodbury company is hoping to lower that statistic. MilitaryFamily.com, in conjunction with psychologist Lawrence Shapiro, has created a free smartphone app called Operation Reach Out. The app provides veterans and their families with tools to both identify PTSD and provide emotional support.

Shapiro said the app, which launched in early December, has had a few hundred downloads in its three-month lifespan.

Shapiro admitted it was unlikely veterans themselves suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or contemplating suicide would download the app freely, but said the benefits are there for them if prompted by a counselor or family member.

“We don’t know if [a veteran] will download the app;” Shapiro said. “That seems a little far-fetched. But that’s why the app takes you down one of two routes – one for veterans and one for those concerned about a veteran.”

The app includes a one-touch button that will immediately call a friend, family member, army chaplain or emotional counselor; video vignettes that offer encouragement to both veterans and their family members; and suggestions for activities that will help people reach out to someone else rather than suffer alone.

“With suicide prevention, the only way it works is if someone else is there with you,” Shapiro said. “That’s what we aimed for with this app: putting the veteran in touch with someone or at least making it seem like our videos were talking directly to them.”