Texting can be a tool to combat depression

Maytinee Kramer/Staff Writer

Photos provided by Maytinee Kramer

Our generation is a wired one. We use technology to stay in touch with friends and family at all times. Through smartphones, computers, and gaming consoles, people are permanently plugged into a network of social devices, creating a culture of “connected cocooning.” However, studies have shown that with the heavy rise of technology usage comes negative effects on sleep quality, stress levels and general mental health. More specifically, heavy uses of technology have shown that young adults are more likely to develop depression or other psychiatric problems.

To combat depression and help people by providing direct support as well as anonymous data about people in crisis, the nonprofit Do Something started a 24/7 free Crisis Text Line to give people access to crisis counselors. Nowadays, people text more than they call, and since they’re more likely to send a text message, this service has become imperative to saving lives.

Launched in 2013, CTL is the first around-the-clock hotline in America to provide its services solely over text messaging, helping more and more teenagers and adults in distress. As more and more people tap out text messages to trained volunteer counselors on 741741 every day, data from those conversations has helped provide many possibilities for how to reach out to people before a crisis occurs.

Do Something’s CEO Nancy Lublin said in a TED Talk recently, “The way we communicate with young people is by text, because that’s how young people communicate.”

Due to the privacy of text messaging, Lublin said that more teenagers are likely to share the most private details of their lives that they would never voice aloud. Texting is also very immediate, cutting right to the chase rather than crying and hyperventilating over the phone.

As the number of users grows, CTL is now able to pick up certain patterns before a counselor sees a text, meaning keywords gives an idea about what the situation is and how severe it has become. For example, if a text contains words like die or kill, suggesting immediate danger, the message goes to the top of the queue for faster response.

From the data gathered by CTL, a trend shows that 30 percent of texts are about suicide and depression, with Sunday being the day people most often write in about killing themselves. Texts asking for help with eating disorders usually peak on Sunday and Monday. In addition, two thirds of all crises happen at night, between 8:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m.

From this data, schools should make more of an effort in preventing crises. According to The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2008–2010), about eight percent of college students experience a major depressive episode each year. In a 2012 survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, of the students with diagnosed mental health issues, depression was the most commonly cited condition. However, the majority of students don’t access the clinical services or academic accommodations provided by their institutions either due to lack of knowledge of the services or because they’re too scared or embarrassed.

FIU currently offers Counseling and Psychological Services at the Student Health Center, which focuses on providing mental health services to students that will facilitate and enhance their personal learning, emotional well-being and academic skills development. With the data gathered by CTL, FIU should consider including text messaging as a way of reaching out to students and urging them to reach back. In addition, if data shows that there are certain times when, for example, anxiety and eating disorders peak, the university should schedule guidance counselors to be available then.

Texting and technology should make us better people, make us safer and it should be used for doing good. Texting is a great way to connect, and with our developing world, it should soon become a great tool in helping others and saving lives.

 

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of FIU Student Media Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

 

About the Author

Maytinee Kramer
Call me May. I’m a senior double majoring in Asian studies and broadcast media and minoring in international relations. I’m a K-pop and Disney junkie, but I also enjoy watching anime and cosplaying. Some of my favorite shows are “Once Upon a Time,” “Supernatural,” and “Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma” while my favorite music artists are 2PM, GOT7, DEAN and Eddy Kim. After college, I hope to work as a news anchor, but I’d eventually like to host a show/segment that focuses on traveling. I am fluent in Thai and currently learning Japanese and Korean.

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