Suicide Prevention Project


It is our goal to create informed applications that address all the needs of clinicians and suicidal patients looking toward recovery. The beacon project was designed to aid suicidal Canadian men and has been sent to clinical trial for validation.


Ottawa Hospital Research Institute


Lead Design


5 Months


Men die by suicide at a rate four times higher than that of women.
— Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI)


We live in a society that makes it difficult for men to open up to others when they face issues such as depression or suicidal thoughts. The lack of male-centric resources for mental illness only increases the isolation men feel when faced with these complex problems. Through a targeted mobile application paired with clinical evaluation, our aim was to more readily provide men with the tools and resources needed for recovery.


Through over one hundred and fifty sketches, the information in this application was iterated and reorganized to develop the most efficient solution for patients suffering from suicidal thought.


This design direction features earth tones meant to evoke a sense of calming warmth over the user. By utilizing wooded imagery and deep greens, the user can feel comfortable when using an application that would usually be seen as clinical and impersonal. The theme can also be symbolic for those feeling lost and isolated from others, as a person lost in the woods might feel, all while maintaining a masculine quality to it.


Through this project, the team kept in close contact with Dr. Simon Hatcher of the University of Ottawa. Our close correspondence helped us to develop an application with the clinical features needed to reduce the rate of suicide attempts in participating men. Below are some preliminary documents sent to Dr. Hatcher and His team.


The Beacon application needed to hold a lot within it to make it clinically viable, so keen organization and detailed documentation became a standard. This resulted in a full taxonomy document for the development team.


One concern for patients in the study was social networking and the creation of suicide pacts. To prevent this, the user was only able to contact predetermined contacts, rather than other participants. As this was not a traditional social network for recovery, it was determined that the profile should house one of the most important elements, the user’s safety plan.

The safety plan takes personal information about the user and helps them to create a plan that allows them to identify triggers, utilize coping strategies, and manipulate their environment/actions to promote recovery.



The survey section allows the participant to record their emotional state and add supporting details that can be reviewed at a later time with clinicians. Additionally, the patient can receive assigned surveys used in therapy to diagnose a patient and track their levels over time. Lastly, though reminders and trackables, a patient can track what’s important to them.


This section leaned heavy into goal creation and execution. By implementing S.M.A.R.T. goals, the clinician could encourage and review the completion of recovery-oriented tasks. It is here that a user could take inventory of all ongoing goals and review upcoming goal deadlines.


This section allowed the patient to record their personal thoughts and ideas through the recovery process. We also included a prompt list form the university to help the patient reflect on their feelings and the treatment process as a whole. In addition, we allowed for media integration as well, so a patient could attach a supporting image/ video or even an audio recording of their therapy session with their clinician. 


The connect section was meant to alleviate the feeling of isolation within patients. Through chosen personal contacts such as friends or family, they could easily reach out during moments of distress. Additionally, this section also housed a direct chat with the patient’s clinician.


This section held both the survey history for mood logs and trackables, as well as achievements. Having a history of the patient’s stats would assist in both the clinician and patient to better understand the patient’s tendencies and problems upon review. The creation of the achievements section was to encourage patients ongoing participation in the application and increase utilization. 


The resources section offered the patient an array of important targeted content, personalized helplines, and location-based services such as AA or emergency rooms. By providing the user with a section for these items, they no longer have to seek out help services outside the app.


One of the most important parts of the application was the bacon button. If the patient is feeling distressed they press the beacon button and send an immediate alert to their clinician. The beacon screen houses a patient’s motivational image/text, the patient’s safety plan, their emergency contact numbers, and an assessment option. The assessment would take in common feelings and situations and provide a personalized recommendation for the patient until the moment of crisis passed.

The safety plan takes personal information about the user and helps them to create a plan that allows them to identify triggers, utilize coping strategies, and manipulate their environment/actions to promote recovery.



After completion of the application, the Ottawa university asked the team to come up with branding to go along with the application. We wanted the Branding of the project to reflect both the modern feel of the application, as well as the earthy imagery implemented within the interface. We explored various types of line work that evoked not only natural visuals such as mountain peaks and trees but also the symbolic nature of the sun, as a guiding beacon. Alternatively, we enjoyed the idea of a location pin at the center of the circle, placing you at the center of your recovery.



The final piece to be added was the clinician dashboard. From here, a clinician would be able to manage multiple patients, messages, appointments, reports, and settings. This dashboard was created to address all of the clinician’s needs for patient management and monitoring. 


Working on such a significant project from start to finish was a great opportunity, because it allowed me to transition from research, to proposal, to iteration, to product, in a single timeframe. This full uninterrupted process is uncommon for my company, and it came as a great privilege to step up and lead the team from concept to completion for the duration of the project. I enjoyed the independence and creative freedom this role offered but I would have liked to see more room for scheduled feedback through peer design review. Even the best designers can get caught in an echo-chamber of their own thoughts if they aren’t careful, and looking back though I would often ask for feedback, I wish I had pushed harder for a set meeting every week to review progress and collect notes on features/design choices that could have been enhanced. 

Ideally I would have liked the opportunity to meet and interview some of the users before and after the clinical trial. Doing so would have strengthened our ability to further assess and improve the application after the trial. I understand though, that this may not have been practical, as medical information requires a certain amount of anonymity to ensure the integrity of the research.