Crisis Texting Services as a Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Strategy
As a Crisis Text Responder, I am part of an organization that provides crisis texting services to individuals needing mental health support. Services for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis were previously limited to in-person hospital emergency room visits, waiting for an appointment with a counselor, calling in on a crisis telephone line or not having any resources to help through a crisis. The problem that these resources pose is that not everyone has a way to get themselves to a hospital, has a counselor to go see, or a telephone line. Limited access to resources means that individuals lack the support they need during an immediate mental health crisis.
Today crisis texting services, like the one powered by Kids Help Phone in Canada, the Crisis Text lines in the United States and the United Kingdom, connect people to crisis responders on a texting platform opening up a whole new way to reach people who otherwise wouldn’t get support. Not having access to an internet connection, phone or computer is a barrier for people wanting to use this service. However, this new way of reaching those in crisis is an alternative solution, and the more ways to connect and reach people, the better.
As a Crisis Text Responder, I can chat with more than one person at a time. When you factor in how many crisis responders are on shift at any given time, we are connecting to more people through this service than anyone else would be able to through a telephone call. Crisis texting services are expanding the way we reach people. We are still not reaching everyone with the vast services that are provided to individuals needing support, but we are trying.
Having resources and services available does not cure people, but it can save lives. Through safety planning with texters thinking of suicide, we focus on empowering them to find a way through these painful thoughts by collaborative problem-solving and exploring helpful tools. The crisis texting services like The Crisis Text lines are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Individuals text in for many different reasons and we normalize, validate, and empower everyone who is needing a non-judgmental, caring and empathetic person to talk to. Some people text in when they feel anxious on the bus, on their lunch break when they feel alone and isolated, or when they are at home alone and struggling with self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
The issues that people are dealing with today can feel heavy and overwhelming, and no one should have to face the pain alone. Texters can talk about their grief, addiction, stress, depression, anxiety, relationships, abuse, suicidal thoughts, self-harming, gender identity, or anything else that they feel is causing them to feel upset, angry, sad, lonely or low.
Although services are not restricted by age, individuals between the ages of 10 and 24 are the most frequent users of crisis texting services. Texting is the preferred form of communication so it makes sense that texting services programs would aim to meet individuals in their comfort zone.
The average amount of text messages sent in this age group to family, friends and even strangers can be upwards of 1,550 hundred texts a month. Research into developing these texting programs saw the need to create a service that would offer support through present-day technology and the needs of those who prefer texting and remaining anonymous. Having someone to talk to about their problems whether big or small is a great step towards self-care and finding solutions to the issues that are causing stress. Trained Crisis Responders have the capabilities to help take a texter from a “hot moment to a cool calm” (Kids Help Phone, 2018).
The Crisis Texting Services that I am part of is through an organization that I reached out to when I was younger for support and understanding. To see the services expanding to meet the needs of those in our country and continuing to provide crisis support is inspiring.
Many counselors and therapists are referring their clients to crisis texting services as a way to navigate through a crisis in between their in-person appointments. This collaborative practice with other professionals is limiting the barriers that exist for individuals who are struggling in between mental health appointments.
Sometimes when a person experiences a crisis or is having an anxiety attack, struggling with the urge to self- harm or having suicidal thoughts, it cannot wait for a next appointment. Crisis texting services are bridging the gap for those in-between times.
If you know someone who could benefit from this service please let them know that help is only a text away.
Crisis Text Line in the USA: Text HOME to 741741
Crisis Texting Services Canada: Text the word CONNECT to 686868
Crisis Texting Services United Kingdom: Text the word SHOUT to 85258
Sue Morton is a Canadian Mental Health Advocate and Blog Writer who writes on the topics of Parenting with Anxiety, Grief, Addictions and Mental Illness. She facilitates an online Parenting with Anxiety network of over three thousand parents with anxiety, learning to navigate through the parenting years with anxiety tagging along. As a Mental Health Advocate she has worked as an Addictions Counsellor, Crisis Counsellor, and Woman and Children's Advocate. She is the creator of the course Authentic You inspiring others on a journey of self-discovery.
Morton, S. (2019). Crisis Texting Services as a Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Strategy. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 7, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/crisis-texting-services-as-a-mental-health-and-suicide-prevention-strategy/