The TextToday program, a joint effort by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, the Crisis Call Center and the Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention, aims to reach help-seeking youth in need to reduce Nevada’s steep suicide rate.
William Evans, Cooperative Extension’s youth development specialist, said the program is based on research showing that young people are more willing to share their feelings through electronic means than by articulating them in person or on the phone.
“If we can make it easier for young people to reach out to someone, we might be able to put a dent in Nevada’s high suicide rate,” Evans said.
Evans said a Centers for Disease Control study in 2009 showed that 10 percent of students in Nevada attempted suicide, and 18 percent have seriously contemplated it. A Nevada Department of Education study that same year found that, although schools often provide free or low-cost counseling, more than one-third of the state’s middle-school students said they didn’t have a teacher or adult at their school they could talk to about a problem.
During the program’s test sessions, the highest number of text messages concerned relationship issues. Mental health and bullying were the next most frequent problems.
In focus groups conducted five months after the program was launched, students said they thought texting their problems to a counselor was less intimidating than calling.
Evans said the program currently is in 12 northern Nevada schools and will be implemented in more throughout the next school year.
For more information about this program, contact Bill Evans at email@example.com or call 784-7013.