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Offering Hope by Knowing How to Help

Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone.
—    Crisis Text Line user

Americans tap, swipe or click their cell phones at an astonishing average of 2,617 times each day. So, it’s probably no surprise that the Crisis Text Line – a nonprofit organization that provides 24/7 crisis intervention by texting 741741 – has grown from 600 counselors exchanging eight million messages two years ago to more than 3,700 counselors who have exchanged 56 million messages to date (“A Crisis Text Line That Calms with Texting and Data,” The New York Times, December 12, 2017).

And given the reported increases in loneliness, depression and suicidal risk among young people, it’s also not unexpected that three-quarters of Crisis Text Line callers are under 25 years old, with 12 percent under the age of 13. What is unique about this service is how data can be used to spot trends and identify issues that need greater attention. For example, 20 percent of users under age 13 mention self-harm – usually cutting – and those who engage in self-harm speak frequently of being scared and alone.

Crisis Text Line counselors are trained to build rapport with texters, explore available support systems and share resources. They offer connections to local services for follow-up help and can initiate an “active rescue” by calling local police or 911 for a caller they believe is suicidal.

Texting is anonymous and can be done anywhere, which is part of its appeal to those in crisis. But sometimes the person who needs our help with a mental health or substance use problem isn’t at the other end of a cell phone, and often they aren’t a stranger—they are a family member, friend or coworker. That’s where Mental Health First Aid comes in. The course teaches five key skills, easily remembered by the acronym ALGEE:

·       Assess for rick of suicide or harm

·       Listen nonjudgmentally

·       Give reassurance and information

·       Encourage appropriate professional help

·       Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Mental Health First Aiders make connections with those who might otherwise remain silent about their problems. Everyone can #BeTheDifference for someone in need if they know what to look for and how to engage people in open conversation. What are you waiting for? Find a course near you today.

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