The global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25% following the first year of COVID-19, according to a scientific brief from the World Health Organization (WHO). The report shows the pandemic's effects weighed most heavily on young people, putting them at a disproportionate risk of suicidal and self-harming behaviors.
For children’s hospitals, this means devising new ways to help kids in need amid a national shortage of behavioral health providers. "COVID-19 continues to have countless negative effects on the mental health of adults, teens and children, and we are committed to finding new, innovative ways to better serve our community," says Terrie Andrews, Ph.D., vice president of behavioral health at Baptist Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida.
As a result, Wolfson Children’s is employing a strategy to meet adolescents and teens where they can often be found—on their phones.
Youth more comfortable sharing through text
Wolfson Children's recently launched a collaboration with Crisis Text Line, a national organization providing text-based mental health support and crisis intervention through a community of trained volunteers. Since its 2013 launch, Crisis Text Line has answered more than 6 million texts—75% of those coming from people under the age of 25.
Individuals can text to connect with a live, trained crisis counselor and receive confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Counselors are trained in active listening, collaborative problem solving and safety planning to help texters navigate difficult emotions.
For Wolfson Children's, the mode of communication is essential to appealing to young patients. "In a focus group with local teens, we found they preferred texting for help over calling because it was easier to express their feelings," Andrews says. "It is not only an accessible option for those in need, but it's also an approachable one—broadening our reach and helping us prevent future crises from happening."
Texting part of multi-layered approach to care
The text hotline collaboration gives Wolfson Children’s another means to assist kids in crisis. The hospital also maintains a 24-hour mental health crisis hotline staffed by trained mental health experts. Additionally, Wolfson Children's is a health care alliance member of Nationwide Children’s Hospital's On Our Sleeves movement.