CONTACT Care Line will launch chat and text-based emotional support, the first of its kind in East Tennessee with funding from the Trinity Health Foundation. This summer, CONTACT will pilot the Chat/Text Line in collaboration with community and educational partners in Knox and surrounding counties.
In a similar pilot program, Nevada’s TextToday program found that young people preferred text communication, believing it afforded more privacy and confidentiality than phone conversations. Young people were more likely to seek emotional support from strangers, who they believed would be less judgmental than people they knew, including family and friends.
In our fragmented modern world, the need for online emotional support is critical. Over half of people with mental, emotional, or behavioral health issues suffer their first symptoms in childhood or adolescence, and roughly 14-20 percent of young people experience these problems, according to a 2009 study.
A 2012 report by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project revealed that about 63 percent of teens text every day, compared to 39 percent who use cell phone and 35 percent who socialize face to face. A 2013 study found that many teens and young adults use social networking sites and mobile technology to express suicidal thoughts and intentions. Study participants reported they would not use suicide hotlines or support groups for this purpose.
CONTACT’s Chat/Text Line will complement existing services like the Knox County Sheriff’s Text-A-Tip program while avoiding attitudinal and social barriers that may prevent teens from reaching out to authority figures or formal mental health providers for emotional support.
Volunteer training for the Chat/Text Line will take place in July 2014. To learn more, call CONTACT’s Director Deb Patterson at (865) 312-7451 or [email protected]. You may also visit the website at contactcarelinetn.org/chat-text for more information.