When it comes to improving mental health disorders, text messaging is a simple technology with huge potential impact.
The numbers tell a sobering story. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in four adults, or approximately 61.5 million Americans, experiences mental illness in a given year, while 6% are dealing with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder. Among teenagers ages 13-18, 20% experience severe mental disorders in a given year. The third leading cause of death for ages 15 to 24 years? Suicide. And more than 90 percent of those who die by suicide had one or more mental disorders. Why should health care professionals use text messaging to improve mental health?
Text Messaging Is Highly Accessible
In one study, UC Berkley researchers created an intervention program using SMS to remind participants to track their mood, take prescribed medications and reflect on positive interactions. Some of the most active text message participants in the study included low income and underserved, primarily non-White populations who did not have smart phones or tablets. With SMS available on almost all mobile phones, text messaging was accessible to all participants in the study. After the conclusion of the study, 75% wanted to continue receiving text messages.
Teenagers Are Texting
DoSomething.org CEO Nancy Lublin gave an eye-opening TED Talk about how texting saves lives. She noticed in her outreach efforts to involve teens in their local communities, that their responses were often cries for help. They were depressed, getting bullied at school, suffering from eating disorders or abuse at home. With 75% of teenagers texting an average of 60 texts a day, it made sense to use texting as the primary tool for helping teens. Lublin later launched the Crisis Text Line, giving teens a place where they could connect to a certified counselor via text. The counselor then texts back and forth to get more information, offer resources and generally help them through their crisis.
Texting Preferred To Mobile Apps
In another study, researchers from Clemson University, Indiana University, and the Centerstone Research Institute surveyed 325 patients currently receiving treatment at community-based outpatient clinics for mental illness. Among mental health patients, 80% used texting and were comfortable with texting their mental health provider. Most did not use or download mobile apps suggesting that texting has more potential in improving treatment outcomes.
The accessibility and cost effectiveness of text messaging makes it a must-have technology to explore for those in the mental health field. For more information on how you can use text messaging to improve mental health and increasing access to mental health services, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-696-1393.