Mental health app BlueIce developed to reduce self-harm in young people

A smartphone app has been designed to manage negative emotions and periods of anxiety in order to reduce self-harm in young people, new data has revealed.

BlueIce is a prescribed app and is created to be used alongside face-to-face therapies, overseen by medical professionals.

Clinical psychologist Professor Paul Stallard, of the University of Bath, developed the app in conjunction with patient groups.

A number of papers published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research emphasise that the app could help tackle self-harm in young people.

Head of psychological therapies for Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, Prof Stallard, claims the idea for BlueIce came about as a result of his work with child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

“Many of the young people I was working with were self-harming but nearly all had their mobile phone close by,” he said.

“Our young people’s participation group at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust thought that a smartphone app could be a way of helping at times of distress, and with their input we produced BlueIce," he continued

“It helps the young person to monitor and manage their unpleasant emotions and to find alternative ways of coping," Prof Stallard added.

“Feedback from young users has been overwhelmingly positive, and there’s a huge potential for it to make a difference to young lives across the UK and internationally.”

BlueIce refers to low mood and ICE (in case of emergency) and is now included on the NHS Apps Library, which holds apps which have undergone technical and clinical reviews.

The app has a mood wheel for young people to keep track of their mood every day, adding notes on their current emotions and actions

The user is immediately routed to a mood-lifting section if a low mood is reported, which has activities designed to reduce distress.

Options include ideas from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), and personalised mindfulness guides, images and music.

BlueIce can also take users to emergency contacts like Childline and the 111 service.

Professor Stallard assessed the influence of using the app for three months on a group of 40 young people aged between 12 and 17.

He discovered that 73 percent of those involved either stopped self-harming or reduced it as a result of the app.

BlueIce is currently being used by CAMHS services in Bath, North East Somserset, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire.

It's also being evaluated in a randomised controlled trial undertaken across Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne.

Professor Stallard will start a trial in September to analyse whether BlueIce reduces the number of young people taken to A&E.

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