Text Hotline Makes "Talking" About Complex Emotional Issues Easier

Many crisis centers, hotlines and help lines are finding that people of all ages, demographics are reaching out by text to ask for help.  And several agencies are now providing text hotline services in an effort to take advantage of this social dynamic.  Their logic is simple.  Increase access to their services through an innovative web-based service, PreventionPays Text

Every hotline/helpline that has added texting has seen an instant boost in their traffic.  And now there's a tremendous amount of data that shows quantitatively and qualitatively that teens prefer using texting to talk about their issues.  The preference is strong.  Early adopters tried to convert text conversations to voice calls which turned out to be ineffective.  In fact, in most cases, when asked to move to a call, the texter would refuse, or worse, opt out. Hotline staff realized the mere suggestion would result in premature termination of the encounter. 

New research supports this.  Studies on text out Michigan and UC Berkeley report that text is preferred when individuals are required to talk about emotional issues or reflect on their personal health.

PreventionPays Text was evaluated during a 3-year SAMHSA GLS Grant. "Someone To Listen: Help-Seeking Behavior Through a Text-Based Crisis Line for Youth" Dr. William Evans, researcher at University of Nevada, Reno and Research Assistants Laura Davidson and Lorie Sicafuse used a multi-method evaluation to assess the efficacy and use rates of the youth text hotline, which is fully operational today and receiving statewide texts in Nevada as well as national texts from youth and young adults who have found their text line through the Internet. 

The research team used program data on use rates and feedback from middle school and high school students in focus groups. The team also conducted focus groups with Crisis Call Center's staff regarding their personal experiences using text instead of the standard model, telephone voice call.  This research is published in the "Journal of Community Psychology" and included as a link on this post.

Today, the collection of hotlines/helplines using PreventionPays text for crisis support have logged well over 1 million text encounters since the service officially launched in 2010, a staggering statistic when considering the nature of the conversations. They are contacting the hotlines because they are in crisis. Many of the youth reaching out through text are facing very serious issues like bullying, self-harm, eating disorders, abuse, domestic violence, and thoughts of suicide.  They are using the text hotlines as a lifeline. While it may be difficult for some to imagine suicide prevention is happening in 160 characters or less, those who use the service, the hundreds of teens and young adults texting these hotlines every day, couldn't imagine it any other way.

If you are in crisis you and need help, you can text ANSWER to 839863

A new resource www.121help.me that came out of a partnership from the award-winning film BULLY, is also providing text help to teens.

Text 121HELP to 20121 for help now 

(121help.me provides 24/7 hotline support to youth in crisis and those that love them. All help offered through their website is confidential and free)