Archive for December, 2023

How “Virtual Hope Boxes” Might Help Prevent Suicide

The word "hope" inscribed on a heart shape against a green outdoor background.

Leveraging technology to provide options for people at risk.

While we’ve written before about the ways technology can play a role in increasing suicide risk, it’s important to know that digital tools can also be used as effective suicide prevention methods.

Earlier this year, a study found that “virtual hope boxes” could be helpful tools for individuals who experience suicidal thoughts to get through moments of crisis. While more research is needed, these promising findings highlight a potentially lifesaving tool.

What is a “hope box” and how can it be used for suicide prevention?

The traditional “hope box” is a tool used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) to help patients who experience suicidal ideation. Hope boxes may contain:

  • Reminders of social connections (such as photographs of friends and family).
  • Uplifting memories of life experiences (such as concert tickets and souvenirs).
  • Distraction tools (such as fidget toys or puzzles).
  • Reminders of reasons for living.
  • Items with symbolic significance to the individual.

Creating a hope box is a deeply personal and individualized effort. Mental health professionals work with clients to identify memories, experiences, people, and locations that help them to feel hopeful, then fill the box with items that represent those sources of hope. The hope box itself is a tangible reminder of a choice the individual has made to go on living, choosing hope over despair. It also becomes a tangible coping strategy during moments of crisis that can disrupt the cycle of despair and suicidal ideation.

The value of the virtual hope box

A “virtual hope box” is a digital, mobile adaptation of the physical hope box. According to the study, virtual hope boxes contain six main components:

  • Visual reminders of important people and memories, such as photos and videos.
  • Distraction tools, such as word searches and picture puzzles.
  • Relaxation exercises, such as guided meditation.
  • Inspirational quotes, which can be user-supplied.
  • Coping cards containing adaptive behaviors.
  • Supportive contacts, including user-added contacts as well as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The advantages of an app-based solution are portability and usability. In a moment of crisis, often, the most valuable intervention is the one that the at-risk person can access right away. Unlike a physical hope box, which requires the individual to carry numerous physical items, the smartphone-based analog is accessible at the touch of a button.

According to the study, virtual hope box users gave the app-based tool high marks for usefulness and said they were likely to use it again. Most of the students studied took advantage of the hope box at least once.

Suicide is a preventable tragedy, and mental health professionals need to use all available tools

As encouraging as the study results on virtual hope boxes may be, the research was limited to a small population of mostly female undergraduate students. More research is needed to investigate whether these tools are helpful for other populations, such as older adults and psychiatric patients, and to further investigate their effectiveness in actually preventing suicide.

However, the study results speak to a larger truth: suicide is preventable, and the right interventions at the right time can make all the difference. Medical professionals who treat patients who are at risk of suicide need to use the tools at their disposal to intervene and mitigate those risks. The consequences of failure to do so can be catastrophic.

If you have lost a loved one, our law firm is here to help

When preventable suicides occur due to medical negligence and mental health malpractice, families are left reeling and searching for answers. Our mission at the Law Offices of Skip Simpson is to fight for accountability and justice for those families. If you have lost a loved one to suicide completion, give us a call or contact us online for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation. We are based in Texas and represent families nationwide.