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The Virtual Hope Box Smartphone Application

Investigators from HSR&D’s Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in Care at the VA Portland Health Care System partnered with the DoD-funded Telehealth and Technology (T2) Center at Joint-Base Lewis McCord on two Military Suicide Research Consortium-funded projects to develop and test the Virtual Hope Box (VHB) smartphone application.1,2 VHB was designed to provide a portable suite of tools to enhance coping self-efficacy among Veterans at risk for suicide, incorporating relaxation, distraction, and social engagement strategies along with crisis line information and other resources. The application supports a mix of pre-loaded and user-created content; users can personalize the content with pictures, music, and reminders of reasons for living. In a randomized clinical trial, Veterans who used VHB reported significantly greater ability to cope with unpleasant emotions and thoughts compared with a control group, and found the app to be more helpful than written educational materials. Since its introduction to the public in February 2014, VHB has tallied over 400,000 downloads through iOS and Android marketplaces, with highly posi- tive feedback. The VHB application is one of only a few empirically-tested smartphone tools designed to support patients at risk for suicide. The project was awarded the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States Department of Defense Innovation Award. VA is exploring additional ways to disseminate information about the app and recently incorporated VHB into a mandatory, national VA suicide prevention training program. For more information about VHB, including clinician and Veteran guides, please go to http://t2health.dcoe.mil/apps/virtual-hope-box.

  1. Bush NE, Dobscha SK, Crumpton R, et “A Virtual Hope Box Smartphone App as an Accessory to Therapy: Proof-of-concept in a Clinical Sample of Veterans,” Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 2015; 45:1-9.
  2. Bush NE, Smolenski DJ, Denneson LM, et “A Virtual Hope Box: Randomized Controlled Trial of a Smartphone App for Emotional Regulation and Coping with Distress,” Psychiatric Services 2017; 68:330-36.

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