A New Perspective: Text Counseling

Many parents try and find new ways to reach out and connect with their children and a crisis center in northern Michigan is doing the same thing.

Many parents try and find new ways to reach out and connect with their children and a crisis center in northern Michigan is doing the same thing.

Third Level Crisis Center in Traverse City is a place where people can come in or call for help 24 hours a day.

But with more and more people texting, those at the center wanted to make sure no generation was left behind.

"The texting services is mostly used by young people-high school, college age people-but really it can be used by anyone who is not able to talk,” said Megan Morrissey, Third Level Crisis Center Counselor.

All information is kept confidential at the crisis center. So, video shown in this story is just a simulation of how the text counseling works. Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. every week day, anyone can text (231) 480-0292 and be instantly connected with a trained counselor.

“Our process on our end is that people text us during our hours and we get a notification on the computer that says we have a message,” said Morrissey. “And from our end it looks more like instant messaging.”

And Morrissey says she talks to a lot of younger people about managing stress.

"I find we get a lot of texting about cutting,” said Morrissey. “[like] I'm looking for a different outlet so I don't do that. Or, interpersonal problems like: I'm having a conflict with a parent or a child or boyfriend and I don't really know how to handle that stress right now. And maybe they don't really need to have like a whole conversation about it. Maybe they just need to tell someone, Eh, I’m really stressed. This is a good way for them to get some relief for that."

According to a report, 85% of young people say they feel stress at least sometimes.

For teens age 13 – 17, school was the biggest stressor and for adults ages 18- 24 it was finances and jobs.

But marketing and public relations director, Gina Aranki, says young people are facing more pressures than that.

"I think that the kinds of pressures that young people in particular face these days, with the influx of social media, with the way that our lives are wide open books for anybody and everybody to see, and without the experience, without the knowledge to process all of that, there's so much more increased chance of bullying,” said Gina Aranki, Third Level Crisis Center Marking and Public Relations Director.

But social media is also being used to help identify people who may be in crisis.

"But we get a lot of phone calls and text messages, especially from young people, who have seen posts that their friends have made on Facebook or other social media sites that say that they are thinking about suicide or that they want to hurt themselves,” said Morrissey. “Then they contact us and they ask us how they can help their friend."

And Aranki says she hasn't necessarily seen an influx of people using text counseling but

"What I am interested in is the fact that the people who are texting are people who would not have called otherwise,” said Aranki. “You know what I mean? So that we are reaching the people who we might not otherwise have had access to."

"Everyone has crisis at some point in their lives and none of us are immune to needing that little bit of extra help,” said Morrissey. “And I find that the people that call and text are so brave. They're asking a complete stranger, an anonymous person that they can't even see, for help and are trusting that we can provide a service for them that no one else can. And that takes a lot of guts."

In addition to crisis, people can also use the texting service for referrals to help connect them to organizations and additional services they may need.

Third level crisis center is hoping to eventually increase their hours for text counseling but they say community support is necessary in order to do that.

To learn more about Third Level Crisis Center or to donate, click here.

This texting service is made available through a grant from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and also made possible by a grant from the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation.