Crisis Text Line

Adolescence is often considered the pinnacle of emotional turmoil, learning independence, body-image issues, and the emergence of mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24. This is also the age range where suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in the US.

So with all these issues affecting teens and young adults, what resources are available for them to seek help? Their parents. But what if their parents aren’t supportive or are part of the problem? Their school counselor. But what if they are scared their peers will see them go to their appointment? Calling a crisis hotline. But what if someone overhears their conversation?

Texting.

Texting is private.

You don’t have to make an appointment.

No one hears you talking.

In the same age group that risk of suicide is the greatest, texting is collectively used as a primary method of communication. The average Millennial exchanges 67 text messages per day, with 98% of all text messages being opened and viewed. In addition, over 80% of American adults use text messaging, which makes it the most common cell phone activity. To better integrate modern technology and mental health support systems, two women named Stephanie Shih and Nancy Lublin created the organization Crisis Text Line.

Crisis Text Line is a non-profit organization in the U.S. that offers 24/7 free crisis mediation through text messaging. Anyone can text the numbers—741741—and within a matter of minutes, a live trained Crisis Counselor will quickly respond to help you work through your problem, or just to provide emotional support. Crisis Counselors are filtered through an extensive application process and must pass a background check and complete a rigorous training program. All texts are free of charge if you use the providers AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or Verizon.

The texting service uses an algorithm that filters incoming text messages by severity, so that texts containing words such as “kill myself” are brought to the top of the list of counselors’ attention so they can be helped immediately. The texter no longer has to wait for their next therapy appointment to address active suicidal ideations.

This algorithm is also vital for collecting mental health data that can be used for a variety of applications. It has determined that words such as “numb” and “sleeve” in the same message have a 99% match for cutting behaviors, and subsequently sends an automatic message to the Crisis Counselor notifying where appropriate clinics are near the texter in need. The algorithm has indicated the worst day of the week for eating disorders. Monday. It can also pinpoint how the mental health of adolescents and young adults are affected by certain events such as a school assembly, or even the election.

Crisis Text Line is a great example of how integrating modern technology and mental health services can provide a source of support for those who are unable or have trouble speaking out about their issues.

 

 

References

To learn more about Crisis Text Line, crisis trends, and how to get involved, visit the website: http://www.crisistextline.org

Mental Health Facts: Children & Teens

https://www.nami.org/getattachment/Learn-More/Mental-Health-by-the-Numbers/childrenmhfacts.pdf

 

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