Augmented Reality brings lifesaving human contact to people at risk of suicide

11 April 2019


A Merseyside charity has teamed up with a Cheshire tech company to support men at risk of suicide by using the power of Augmented Reality (AR).

In a new service launched by James’ Place a simple mobile phone scan of a ‘crisis card’ brings to life an AR video of a person providing support and advice, helping break down the barriers to asking for help. The crisis cards are being widely distributed at places like university campuses, sports stadiums and A&E departments as a new way to target men in the fight against male suicide.

People in suicide crisis experience feelings of isolation, find it difficult to reach out for help and often don’t know where to turn. Using the crisis card, which promotes engagement with the James’ Place service, helps the person feel less alone, reducing the likelihood of them actually taking their own life.

The crisis cards were developed by AR and digital design experts Media and Digital (MaD) who the Innovation Agency introduced to James’ Place and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust when they were seeking a developer for the project. 

Stuart Atherton, managing director of MaD, said: “When we were approached by the Innovation Agency on behalf of Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, we knew immediately how we could use the power of AR to reach out to and really engage with this demographic. The feeling of having someone to talk to greatly lessens the possibility of an individual taking their own life – and the crisis card offers a supportive, one-to-one environment in a safe and familiar format. Crucially, all interactions are measurable so that we can evaluate the success of the campaign and evidence the impact of its intervention.”

The charity James’ Place supports men who are experiencing suicidal thoughts or recovering from attempted suicide. Founded following the tragic loss of a son to suicide who was unable to find the help he desperately sought, James’ Place provides a calm, welcoming and non-clinical centre for men in the Liverpool area, and works in partnership with Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust’s active work in suicide prevention.

Jane Boland, centre manager at James’ Place, said: “We chose Liverpool as the home for the first James’ Place as the city is an area of high mental health need and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust is one of the best and most innovative mental health providers in the country. We are proud that our partnership allows us to offer crisis cards to help men access the essential services they need.

“We know that many men who have died by suicide did not ask for help before they took their life. We hope that watching our video will make it easier for men to access lifesaving help.

“Working in partnership with the Centre for Perfect Care and NHSI gives us access to innovation and technology that we as a small charity would struggle to find on our own. We are keen to continue these relationships to support the men using our service.”

Inderjit Singh at The Innovation Agency said: “Part of our remit is to seek out innovative technology to support ongoing improvement for Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust’s services. As soon as we spoke to Stuart at MaD we knew we’d found the solution we’d been looking for. The Crisis Cards offer a new way to really engage with this demographic and will help get the trust’s important message out to a far wider audience than we’ve traditionally been able to reach.”

Steve Bradbury, Deputy Director of Improvement & Innovation, Centre for Perfect Care at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, added: “The Centre for Perfect Care, set up to help continuously improve our services, opens the door for the trust to work in partnership with other providers. The therapeutic services offered by James’ Place give much needed care and support to vulnerable individuals in a safe and familiar environment. Our goal is to see suicide rates drop dramatically following the introduction of the crisis cards.”

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