Anonymous Texting Helpline Set To Expand In Illinois Following Success.
Troubled youth have gained a new ally, and they’re available at the tip of their fingers 24/7. It’s a program based in the Lake Bluff/Lake Forest area in Illinois that allows troubled teens to text a clinician anonymously anytime they need help or advice. The program is so successful that it is now expanding to all of Lake County.
Text-A-Tip is an anonymous text-communication system for youth who need immediate mental health assistance for themselves or a friend, says Andy Duran. Duran is the executive director of LEAD, a Lake Forest-based nonprofit group that initiated the problem to assist local youth who are troubled or suicidal and become another resource for them to turn to. He is also helping to expand the availability of the program nationwide.
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LEAD is not a new organization, in fact it’s been around a few decades. But they established the program in response to a string of three teen suicides in the Lake Bluff/Lake Forest area in a period of less than two weeks back in 2012, said Duran.
“We sat students down and asked, ‘what is it you’re not getting?’” Duran said during a presentation about the program’s expansion. He said the answer the group got from the students was an anonymous system to allow teens and young people to discuss serious problems by text without fear of repercussions or judgement.
Teens who utilize the service can send a text message to a dedicated number and receive an instant response from a licensed clinician while remaining completely anonymous. The program says that the anonymity makes it a more comfortable atmosphere for teens to open up about the help that they need. It has become a safe outlet for voicing concern, asking questions, and seeking help for themselves and others.
“Text-A-Tip was created to give young people an outlet for anonymous, immediate help for themselves or their friends,” Duran told the Chicago Tribune. Teens who struggle with depression, drug or alcohol abuse, bullying or family issues can reach out for help using a medium that they are already comfortable with.
Over this past summer, the program expanded into McHenry County. Now, with the assistance of local groups including the Lake County Opioid Initiative, it’s available to youth across Lake County as well.
“This will, without a doubt, save lives,” Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said about the program. Nerheim is the co-founder of the Lake County Opioid Initiative.
Duran points out that one of the most important features of the program is that all those who answer the text messages are state-licensed mental health professionals. All staff respond to the text messages within a matter of minutes. There is only a staff of 12 people to respond to texts though, with four on call at all times. In cases involving a life-threatening condition or criminal activity, emergency responders are notified.
The program in Illinois is showing a lot of success so far. Approximately ⅓ of teens who text the program involve substance abuse, but other leading topics include depression, anxiety and bullying.
Sometimes it can be tough for parents to pick up on everything that their teen is going through. This anonymous helpline provides a safe space for teens to communicate with trained professionals to get the help that they need. While this line can be successful in crisis situations, parents of troubled teens may want to consider more lasting treatment and therapy. Residential treatment centers use trained professionals to address many of the problems that can lead to critical situations.
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