Evaluating a smartphone app for university students who self-harm

Bethany Cliffe, Paul Stallard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Self-harm and other mental health difficulties are very common amongst university students, but students face numerous barriers in accessing professional support. Support offered via a smartphone app may help to overcome some of the barriers they face, while providing support that is acceptable and helpful. However, there is limited research on supportive apps for students who self-harm. This study aimed to evaluate a self-help app (BlueIce) for helping students manage their self-harm, mental wellbeing and coping ability. This was a pre-post study in which 80 participants completed baseline measures online and were sent a link to download BlueIce. Of these, 27 completed follow-up questionnaires six weeks later assessing anxiety, depression, self-harm, and coping self-efficacy/styles. At follow-up, participants also completed a questionnaire evaluating BlueIce. Self-harm urges and symptoms of anxiety and depression significantly decreased, and coping self-efficacy significantly increased. Around two thirds (64%) said that BlueIce had stopped them from harming themselves an average of 24 times. Feedback showed that BlueIce helped provide a distraction in difficult times and helped them to manage their emotions in a more adaptive way. Following the trial period, participants’ wellbeing had significantly improved, suggesting that BlueIce may be helpful for university students in managing their self-harm urges and general mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number394
Number of pages15
JournalEducation Sciences
Issue number4
Early online date13 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2023

Data Availability Statement

The data sets generated during the current study are not publicly available due to their confidential nature, but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


  • digital health
  • mental health
  • mHealth
  • self-harm
  • university student

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Education
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Public Administration
  • Computer Science Applications


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