BLOG: Help for Stark County teens and young adults at their fingertips

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iStock_000021224109_MediumHow many people know where they can call for help in a mental health crisis? In addition to the Crisis Hotline at 330-452-6000 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, Stark County also has a Crisis Text Line. For young adults and teens, they can text 4hope to 741 741 and within just a few minutes begin an anonymous text conversation with a trained volunteer or crisis staff member.

When StarkMHAR began this initiative over a year ago, we recognized the need for youth to seek help in a way that they are most comfortable. We know that young adults would rather text instead of call (91% of teens with cell phones use texting!). If teens won’t call their friends or parents, they most likely will not call a hotline if they were dealing with a mental health crisis. To fill this gap, StarkMHAR contracted with the National Crisis Text Line to offer this service to youth and young adults in Stark County.

If you recognize that a young person in your life is having a problem, offer to talk and listen to them and share the Crisis Text Line number: Text 4hope to 741 741.

Teens and young adults can text in any problems they are struggling with, whether it be depression, anxiety, substance use, problems with friends or family, bullying or thoughts or suicide or self-harm. Texting is anonymous and confidential. However, if someone is at immediate risk of harming themselves or someone else, the platform has capabilities to get emergency services to the person. Although this may be concerning to some adults, just remember that they are demonstrating positive behaviors by asking for help. It’s better that a young person seek help in this way than to talk to someone untrustworthy who may not give appropriate help, or even worse, not talk about it at all. If young people do not have an outlet to discuss their feelings and problems, they may keep things to themselves and potentially turn to maladaptive behaviors such as using alcohol or drugs, self-harm such as cutting or even thinking about or attempting suicide.

The volunteers who answer the Crisis Text Line have been screened (including a background check) and have gone through 34 hours of training. The National Crisis Text Line coordinates all the volunteers and staff and state that only 30% of applicants that apply are accepted to be volunteers. This helps confirm that the volunteers are properly trained to talk about the issues young people may be facing. The volunteers also have supervisors who have additional expertise available to them should the volunteer need assistance with the conversation.

Although this is a great tool available to Stark County youth, it is not meant to take the place of a friend, family or other forms of professional help, such as counseling or therapy. If you recognize someone in your life is using the Crisis Text Line more frequently, it may be helpful to talk to them about where to get appropriate, ongoing support. Resources for additional help or referrals can be found at StarkMHAR.org.

For more information or to become a volunteer, please contact Allison Rohlf at 330-455-6644 or Allison.Esber@StarkMHAR.org. To learn more about Crisis Text Line, visit StarkMHAR.org/CrisisTextLine.


About Allison Esber

Allison Esber serves as the Coalition and Community Development Coordinator at Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery (StarkMHAR). She is the adult adviser for Stark County Youth Led Prevention and works to engage schools and the community in substance use prevention. Allison also serves as the Coordinator for the Stark County Suicide Prevention Coalition which strives to reduce suicide deaths in Stark County. Prior to her work at StarkMHAR, Allison had volunteered and worked on a 24-hour crisis hotline for nearly four years after completing a dual-bachelors degree in Psychology and Sociology with a concentration in criminal justice. She completed her Masters of Science in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University in May 2015. Allison is a licensed social worker and a certified prevention specialist assistant. She is also an instructor for Youth Mental Health First Aid, QPR (Question. Persuade. Refer) and CALM-Counseling on Access to Lethal Means.