ARLINGTON, Va. – For Guard members, getting connected with a mental health provider in their area is as easy as downloading an app.
The Guard Ready app, which has listings for mental health providers and other specialists, was initially fielded in a limited capacity about a year ago but has been retooled over the past few months with listings in all 54 states, territories and the District of Columbia, said Army Capt. Brian Pennington, the Suicide Prevention Program coordinator with the National Guard Bureau.
"They put their home state into the app and they select local resources and it connects them to maybe a behavior health counselor in their area," he said. "No matter where they are, it's just one click away to get help."
And that's been the driving force behind the app's creation—making it easy for those that need help to get help.
"One thing that we found, a commonality, is that most Soldiers don't know where these resources are actually located," said Pennington. "So, having this centrally located app gives Soldiers the ability to say 'hey, I'm having some problems, where can I go to get the help I need?'"
While there may be other, similar apps available, the Guard Ready app is tailored to those in the Guard and offers other features to simplify access to help.
"Many of the other apps we've found they don't' actually link the Soldier and Airmen with the resource he or she needs," said Pennington. "This actually does that. It links them directly with the resource."
The app, said Pennington, stands as another way to intervene to prevent suicides within the Guard.
"What the Guard has done is taken a proactive stance to help combat that," said Pennington. "This app is just one of many tools that the Guard uses to help not only reduce the stigma [of asking for help] but to connect people with resources."
The app itself is free to download and available on most services where apps can be downloaded, such as Apple's iTunes or Google Play, said Pennington, adding that plans are underway for improvements to the app to allow for alerts, updates and messages from providers to automatically be pushed to those subscribed to the app.
"I think it's going to be a great tool to have out in the field moving forward," said Pennington. "One life lost to suicide is one life to many and we want to continue what we can to get out there and connect folks with the resources they need."