Death by suicide is one of the leading causes of fatalities among people of all ages, but young people are an especially high-risk group. Unfortunately, suicide hotlines designed to prevent death by suicide by helping those with suicidal thoughts may not be reaching young people or providing adequate support to teens because these hotlines are based on phone technologies that could be considered antiquated.
Recognizing hotlines may not be working well for younger individuals, some suicide prevention and outreach groups have added “texting” hotlines. ABC Action News reports that the latest of such programs is starting in San Francisco, and that the father of a victim who died by suicide is leading the charge to increase the availability of counseling via text. The father is driven by the belief that such a program might have saved the life of his 17-year-old son, who tried to reach out to his therapist via text in the middle of the night. The therapist didn’t get the text until the teen had died by suicide.
While mental health professionals must be alert to the signs of suicide and a suicide lawyer in Dallas can assist individuals in taking action against a therapist that failed to live up to its obligations, therapists cannot always be available via phone or text 24-7. Hotlines help, and should reach many people as possible.
Texting Hotlines Could Help to Save Lives
Suicide hotlines provide an important outlet for individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts and who either do not have or cannot get in touch with their own therapist. For teens, however, texting generally surpasses all other modes of communication, with teenagers turning to texting even for serious issues like breaking up relationships.
Teens accustomed to electronic communication are more likely to reach out via text when experiencing suicidal thoughts, which helps to explain why all students who were part of a San Francisco suicide prevention focus group expressed support for adding a text-based service to existing types of suicide prevention help available. A quarter of the teens in the focus group also said they’d prefer to reach out via text, rather than phone, if they were experiencing a crisis. Another 25 percent said their preferred communication method would be chat, while just 25 percent said they’d use a traditional phone hotline.
The texting option available to teens in San Francisco is called MyLife and gives teens a number they can use to send a text message and connect with a trained counselor. When the counselor receives a text, the counselor can alert emergency services if needed and can provide emotional support via text message.
This new texting program is not the first of its kind either. Nevada and Minnesota have also added text-based suicide prevention hotlines and Minnestoa’s TXT4LIFE hotline handled over 3,800 text sessions last year, providing assistance for 1,985 young people who needed help.
Hopefully, as texting systems grow in size and scope and spread throughout the United States, they will work as an effective tool in the fight to reduce death by suicide.
Psychiatric outpatient clinics which serve teens should seriously consider adding this service for their young patients…a great agenda item for suicide prevention.
If you lost a loved one to suicide, contact a suicide attorney in Dallas at the Law Offices of Skip Simpson, dedicated to holding mental health counselors accountable. Call 214-618-8222.