Don’t be so sure the smartphone your teenager is using is always going to be a problem. A new program is reaching teens in crisis through texts.
There are a few things we know about teenagers today: they always have a smartphone in their hands and they’re almost always looking at it. We also know that depression and suicides among teens are at the highest levels in history. Whether there is any connection is up for debate.
But if you want to reach teenagers for any reason, you should be prepared to do it through a social networking app or by text.
Crisis Text Line is connecting with teenagers who feel they need help dealing with a crisis through the very smartphone in their hands. It’s similar to the crisis hotlines that have been in existence practically since phones became a fixture in every home.
“The use of text messaging out to teenagers and young people was the best way to communicate with them,” said Dr. Shairi Turner, Chief Medical Officer for Crisis Text Line. “What makes texting unique in crisis situations is the anonymity. There’s never any judgement, there’s 24/7 accessibility, you don’t see a face or hear a voice so there’s a certain comfort level in disclosing to an anonymous person.”
Crisis Text Line has 3,000-4,000 trained crisis counselors volunteering their time to help, not only teenagers but adults and pre-teens who call for help.
When someone texts the number 741741, they are put in touch with a counselor by text only. The counselor will find out what is bothering the person texting and offer help or just an ear.
“The topics that we see most frequently are around depression, relationships, family issues,” said Turner. “The volunteers use crisis intervention skills to help take the tester from a hot moment to a cooler calm.”
On the Crisis Text Line webpage (www.crisistextline.org) the not-for-profit states it has exchanged texts nearly 68 million times since it first began in 2013. Counselors have helped teens who admit they are cutting themselves, contemplating suicide, taking drugs and running away from home. Some texters opened up that they were raped and didn’t know where to turn.
If a counselor determines that the person texting is an immediate threat to themselves or someone else and cannot be brought to that “cooler calm”, the counselor will contact local law enforcement to perform a wellness check. To date, Turner said Crisis Text Line has done over 10,000 of those active rescues.
The ability to text a cry for help opens up the possibility that many teenagers that would never consider a phone call would reach out by texting.
Turner says making a phone call can be difficult for more than just one reason. “You have to have a place, a safe place, a quiet place, a private place to reach out to someone by telephone,” she said. But using texts, the teenager or adult can reach out for help without anyone knowing, even if they’re texting while with friends.
For more information you can visit the Crisis Text Line website.