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depression

How You Can Prevent Teen Suicide With a Text Message

Widianto Nugroho

Widianto Nugroho

Did you realize that suicide rates for teenage girls in America are at a 40-year high? That’s the disturbing reality, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Technology is often talked about as a problem in this realm (with studies showing smartphone use linked to depression), but technology can also be part of the solution.

Since so many texters are female (7 out of 10) and 75 percent are under age 25, according to NPR, merging mental health with texting actually could be a life-saving idea (and one courtesy of Crisis Text Line).

Crisis Text Line is an organization providing free crisis intervention via SMS message, available 24 hours a day every day, throughout the US by texting 741741. You can also search the hashtag #741741 and see posts on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook about the organization.

The organization was founded by Nancy Lublin, who originally founded a text-based volunteer organization for teens, called DoSomething, but expanded it into its current iteration when the platform got a text that read, “‘he won’t stop raping me. It’s my dad. He told me not to tell anyone. r u there?’ ”

Lublin told NPR how devastated she was to read the text, and how it made her rethink text hotlines:

It was so terrible and desperate that it stopped us in our tracks. And a couple of weeks later I just thought, wow. If they’re going to share stuff like this with us, if they’re that alone, if they trust text that much, there should be a hotline by text. And so I set out to build it.

For young adults like Elisheva Adler, who lost a friend to suicide when she was a teen, hotlines like this are exactly what she believes are needed. Adler, who was interviewed for the NPR story, volunteers for Crisis Text Line because she wants to make sure that others get the support they need, saying how her friend’s death made her question what she didn’t “see.”

Watch Nancy Lublin’s TED Talk below:

Crisis Text Line, as NPR pointed out, works a little differently than a regular hotline. Unlike a phone call, it can use data to analyze the text messages coming in. As NPR explained:

For example, they have found that the word “ibuprofen” is a very powerful indicator that someone will make an attempt in the next 24 hours. It’s 16 times more telling, their research shows, than the word “suicide” itself. The name of this common over-the-counter drug indicates that someone has the means to harm themselves, and a plan in mind.

The hotline also refers the texters to organizations that can help them in the long term. In the four years since it was launched, 50 million texts were reported to be sent, with another 50 million within the following year. The numbers illustrate the need — a need that is evolving, just as the way people talk is evolving.

Crisis Text Line now helps rescue 20 active people a day across the country. In a time where smartphones are said to potentially cause depression in teens, this is a way they can actually help.

So, how can you help? Listen and talk. Train to be a volunteer or let friends and families know about the organization. It’s especially important to talk about depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation with your loved ones because it may not always be obvious when someone is suffering.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or visit their website.

Image: Widianto Nugroho


here now

This post is part of the Here.Now series, which seeks to destigmatize mental health,
and is made possible by UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Board.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.

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