Instant messaging for mental health care
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06-05-15 Category: Mental Health, Therapy


Instant messaging is now considered an ubiquitous form of communication on computers and phones. As this form of technology has become more prevalent over the years, more people are becoming more comfortable with using it. As millennials are reaching adolescence and adulthood, they are leading the charge in using digital forms of communication. As a result, mental health care providers should keep up with the new standards of accessibility.

One of the biggest technological advances that has been adopted by the medical field is text messaging hotlines. With the variety of problems plaguing one’s teenage years, from bullying and abuse to substance use and other risky behaviors, various communities across the country have experienced an unnecessary fair share of school-related violence and suicide. In fact, those between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. Mental health care professionals desperately try harder each day to reach out to these at-risk and underserved demographics. Traditional hotlines were a useful resource in previous decades, as phone communication was once the leading form of contact between people.

Now it has become abundantly clear that the most prominent form of communicating is through instant or text messaging. The latest research from the Pew Research Center claims that texting has become the norm for children between the ages of 12 and 17. These most recent findings also reveal that only 14 percent of teens report talking through a phone each day, whereas 63 percent report texting every day. From this collected data, it is only logical for the health care industry to implement this technology to engage with individuals who need help.

Instant messaging would be especially useful in the case of suicidal ideation and other mental disorders that cause people to be impulsive and dangerous. When these types of incidences occur, illogical or irrational thoughts may require instantaneous intervention. Overcoming these situations is where in-person therapy fails. A conventional therapist can only assist a client within his or her office walls. However, with the instant availability through a person’s phone or computer, text messaging can deliver the needed support a person needs as soon as trouble arises. This is a type of mental health management that is not only simple and non-invasive to accomplish, but also shines in its irreplaceable benefit to human life.

A recent study in the Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Networking research journal found that text therapy can show equal effectiveness when compared to its traditional counterpart. No matter when or where, text messaging fosters a sense of safety since it can be accessed anywhere. Especially for teens in school and other social settings, individuals can reach out for help without making a scene for others to notice. Although the practice is so widespread among youth, texting is also a private activity. Opening up and speaking candidly about personal issues can be uncomfortable for teenagers, which may act as a leading deterrent for seeking help in the first place. Text messaging shields adolescents in anonymity from feelings of embarrassment, guilt or other social consequences.

Although the current use and future potential of text messaging for mental health care is promising, studies also state that only 9 percent of cellphone owners receive any text updates or alerts about health or medical issues. One of the main reasons for this could be that not many clients sign up for these services. In some circles, text messaging is not taken seriously as a form of contact due to its informality. However, for real progress to take place in the treatment and prevention field, legitimate communication must be determined by its scope rather than its image.

Certain sectors of the health care industry have lagged and need to adopt changes to address the need of future clients. Unfortunately for many, scheduling necessary appointments with doctors or mental health professionals can get tied up in administrative obstacles. As these hindrances continue to block direct forms of treatment and diagnoses, the amount of patients continues to build and delay treatment.

Sovereign Health of California provides extensive face-to-face contact and support. Our team of qualified experts and staff utilize the most cutting edge resources to keep clients on track during recovery. If you or loved one needs long lasting help and mental health management, live chat with a consultant anytime online or call (866) 819-0427 for more information.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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