A Maryland mental health association took its crisis hotline to text and chat to help more people as the way we communicate changes.
Recent numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a steady increase in suicide rates from 1999 to 2014.
EveryMind of Rockville began operating a phone hotline in the 1970s.
“Starting in 2012 we added chat services, and about two years ago we added text services to really meet people where they are,” EveryMind Director of Crisis Intervention and Prevention Rachel Larkin said. “We really want to be available whenever anybody’s in crisis, wherever they are.”
Volunteers handle anything from suicide prevention to people who want to talk about their day.
“With text in particular, we are looking at young people because that’s how they communicate, but as a middle-age person I know that I don’t actually speak to anybody on the phone anymore,” Larking said. “All my communications are via email or text.”
The anonymous aspect of text or chat allows people to open up faster.
“It’s bringing down a lot of barriers that people had to communicating when they were feeling badly or in crisis,” Larkin said.
But it does have challenges.
“You really have to pay a lot of attention, choose your words carefully, really delve into what the person is saying and reflect their emotions and make sure you’re on the same page as them,” Larkin said.
Being available through text and chat has helped EveryMind help more people and spread the word that they are available for anyone in crisis, she said.
“Amazing amount of work that you can do and help you can give just over phone or chat or text and really get people to a better place or get them connected with the right folks,” Larkin said.
EveryMind gets the word out about the texting/chatting service at schools and community events.