Texting for Help During the Coronavirus Pandemic
hg0088The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting isolation have spiked anxiety, stress, and grief—and a text-based crisis hotline has strategies to help people cope.
Released on 4/16/2020
[cell phone ping]
[Nancy] We were kinda built for this moment.
We've always been an army of amazing crisis counselors
at home on their couches in their jammies.
Crisis Text Line is 24/7 help at your fingertips.
It's all things, so suicide, depression, anxiety,
eating disorders, domestic violence,
it's a one stop place for people who
aren't able to cope productively.
One of the best things about Crisis Text Line
is that it's not an app.
You don't have to download it,
you don't have to go through an intake survey,
or pay something, or fill out a long form.
Um, it's just text.
It's like texting your best friend or your mom.
It's, in the United States, 741-741.
And the first question we ask is,
What's your crisis?
We're here for your pain and so, that's where we start.
From the very beginning,
we believed that there should be an organization
that crisis is based built from the ground up
around data and technology.
We use date internally
to inform our decision making
and improve our training.
So, insights like the words
brave, smart, and proud
are three of the most impactful words
that you can share with anyone in crisis
because it shows them how to be strong.
It helps them stay safe in the future on their own.
The second way we use data is externally.
We believe that the entire space of mental health,
associated journalism and researchers
need compelling rich data sense that can inform
not only identification of a problem
so, rate to suicidality, depression, anxiety.
But also what works is solutions.
This is a moment for physical distance
and social connection.
There are these physical things that happen
so the virus, the loss of a job,
and then the quarantines happen
and that's good for flattening the curve
but there's also these echoes of mental health issues
that we expect to see for a very long time.
We've also, we've seen the COVID traffic in two waves.
Basically the first wave was,
is still anxiety
and that's largely following the map of the states
with the largest number of testing positive cases.
Um, so we're seeing a lot of anxiety there.
And we always knew and it has now surfaced
a second wave.
The second wave is two fold.
The impact of the virus itself.
So, things like grief.
Things like, asking about their own symptoms.
And secondly, the impact of the quarantines.
So, before this we saw 6% of our texters
would reference the word home.
It would talk about things happening at home.
Now 14% of our texters reference the word home.
And home has a 2x increase in domestic violence,
child abuse, substance abuse.
All these unintended consequences of frankly
being trapped at home with abusers
and trapped at home away from your
self care routines and mechanisms.
The language that they're using
include words like fear, panic, frantic.
Intense words of anxiety stemming from Corona Virus.
And more intense than we've seen
in the past associated with anxiety.
The pain is magnified in the most marginalized people.
We're seeing the percentage of our LGBTQ texters increase.
Um, so now more than 50% of our texters identify as LGBTQ.
Um, secondly, the percentage of our texters
who are low income has increased.
Right now 32% of people texting us
say that their household income is under $20,000.
So we are talking to the poorest people in America.
Normally, about 5% of our texters identify as Asian
and now that's north of 10%.
And that's identified a lot with
bullying, harassment, depression.
It's a tough time right now with
people being particularly cruel
about the origin of COVID-19.
But the beautiful thing is typically about
10% of our applicants to be crisis counselors
identify as Asian. But right now
people applying to help strangers in pain
27% of them identify as Asian.
It's inspiring and beautiful to see this
community of people who are being targeted
and harassed and are feeling a lot of pain right now
turn that pain into wanting to
volunteer to help other people.
Coping in the case of COVID means
identifying a short time frame.
Shrinking this giant overwhelming thing,
this giant unknown overwhelming thing into smaller
bites of time, like, What are you going to do tonight?
to distract yourself.
What's your plan for tomorrow? To stay strong.
So tonight and tomorrow is really helpful
in people feeling stronger.
Another one is how to create routines
and establish habits. So talking about sleep,
talking about exercise on a regular basis.
And the third thing I would say
that we've seen helping texters is normalizing pain.
using phrases like
It's normal to fee freaked out right now.
or, Yeah, it's okay to be stressed out today.
Saying, it's okay to feel it, it's normal.
There's some good news here.
There's some things that we've discovered.
So, in the 15 states with the highest COVID rates
we've seen a word that is pretty hopeful.
They're using the word courage.
That's pretty nice to see.
And then there's one word that really makes me feel good
that we're seeing that is a positive word.
And that's the word mom.
It's that grounding and family relationships
and uh, that's kind of great.