By Suzanne Baker Contact Reporter Naperville Sun
A 24-hour hotline for anyone in the Naperville area who needs help dealing with a crisis is just a text away.
Naperville’s Collaborative Youth Team is partnering with the national Crisis Text Line to give everyone with a cellphone a discreet way to receive free counseling.
Trained counselors from Crisis Text Line are available 24/7 to serve anyone experiencing depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bullying, suicidal thoughts or other painful emotions.
Instead of calling, individuals can text “REACH” to 741741 to connect with one of more than 3,000 crisis counselors who operate under strict protocols for providing safe and confidential care to each user.
“The beauty of having an option to text with a trained crisis counselor is that it is already a comfortable medium for communication, and it’s extremely discreet,” IdaLynn Wenhold, executive director of the Naperville nonprofit KidsMatter, said in a news release.
“A student can be texting while sitting across from their peers at lunch, or a colleague can text while at their desk at work and no one will know,” Wenhold said.
KidsMatter oversees the Collaborative Youth Team, which includes more than 20 governmental and social service agencies throughout Naperville.
The Crisis Text Line was founded in 2013 by Nancy Lublin as a means to direct teens to counseling services without having to make a phone call, because teens typically don’t make calls.
A 2015 study by the Pew Research Center shows 88 percent of American teenagers ages 13 to 17 have access to a mobile phone, and 90 percent of those teens exchange texts.
A typical teen will send and receive 30 texts a day, with the most prolific being girls ages 15 to 17, who exchange 50 texts daily, Pew data shows.
The text line was an outgrowth of Lublin’s work as CEO of DoSomething.org, a nonprofit for teens and young adults interested in social change.
After asking for ideas about where to effect change, Lublin noticed teens started responding with fewer texts about activism and more about help with bullying, eating disorders and abuse.
Within four months of the launch, Crisis Text Line was being used in all 295 area codes in the United States, and two years later, Lublin left DoSomething.org to concentrate on the crisis line.
To date, it has answered more than 55 million messages.
The Collaborative Youth Team joins a growing list of organizations across the country that have signed on to promote the texting line.
In exchange, the communities benefit by having access to statistical data, such as the time and days when texts are received and the general reason for the call, such as abuse, bereavement, bullying, depression, family or friend issues, school problems, self-harm or stress.
Each location partner is given a different keyword to help track the data, with “REACH” being the designation for the Naperville area.
Bridget Hatch, KidsMatter marketing and event director, said the Collaborative Youth Team is looking for trends that can help team members focus on their services, not information on individuals.
Any text conversation a person has with a crisis counselor is held under the strictest of confidentiality, Hatch said.
“We are excited to make this a community effort, and we encourage other local agencies to partner with the Collaborative Youth Team and encourage use of this keyword,” said Eirene Leventis, counselor with the Naperville Police Department, which is an active member of the Collaborative Youth Team. “The goal is to help as many people as possible, and increasing awareness of the keyword and encouraging people to use this free service is how we’re going to do that.”
According to the Crisis Text Line website, partners must reach 200 keyword texts before they can unlock access to the data. To protect anonymity, partners must continue to generate at least 100 conversations per month to continue receiving a report.
The Crisis Text Line works with all major U.S. cellphone carriers and most minor regional carriers, and standard message rates apply.
Nothing will appear on a cellphone bill with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint or Verizon plans. For other carriers, the short code 741741 will appear on a billing statement.
Those on prepaid phone plans may not be able to text with the short code. Instead, the Crisis Text Line advises those individuals to use Facebook Messenger.
To do so, use the “Send Message” at facebook.com/crisistextline button to connect to a counselor.
The service also is available on Kik, though a person must indicate he or she is in crisis to select Kik bots before they are directed the Crisis Text Line for further help.