Crisis Text Line, a 24-7 texting hotline for teenagers who need help, aims to make aggregate data from its program, which show near real-time patterns for people in crisis, available to the public this spring, according to a report in the New York Times. The data will be analyzed through a partnership with the MIT Media Lab.
The Crisis Text Line program offers young people free access to the texting service if they need emotional support and information from a trained specialist. Crisis Text Line's website lists various categories with different phone numbers for each for teens to text in to including depression and suicide, dating abuse and domestic violence, human trafficking, child abuse, eating disorders, support for LGBT youth, and veterans.
MobiHealthNews first wrote about Crisis Text Line in June 2012, when Crisis Text Line Founder and CEO of DoSomething.org Nancy Lublin spoke about her project at a TED presentation.
"There is no census on bullying and dating abuse and eating disorders and cutting and rape," Lublin said in a TED talk. "No census. Maybe there's some longitudinal studies that cost lots of money and took lots of time or maybe there's some anecdotal evidence. Imagine having real-time data on every one of those issues. You could inform legislation, you could inform school policy, 'You could say to a principal, you're having a problem every Thursday at 3, what's going on in your school?'"
Since launching in August, data from Crisis Text Line has suggests that teens with eating disorders text the hotline more often Sunday through Tuesday, teens who cut don't wait until after school to do so, and El Paso teens send three times as many texts about depression than those in Chicago.
A need for information in local health departments, such as the data Crisis Text Line plans to offer, has recently garnered attention. The UPMC Center for Health Security published a survey of practitioners from 47 local health departments that identified gaps in health departments and found a big hole in the ability of health departments to get information about their communities.
The survey found health practitioners don't have the resources to offer a lot of social media and mobile health tools to the community and to improve this situation, health practitioners suggested that policymakers promote the creation of an information exchange database and find a way to integrate information into a national system so that health departments can use that data to help locals in the community.
Other crisis texting programs have surfaced in the past few years. In August 2011, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski announced a rollout to bring not only texting, but photo, video, and data support to what he called the Next Generation 911 service within five to ten years, but by late 2012 Genachowski announced this rollout would happen faster than anticipated because of a commitment from mobile operators AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile USA to implementing 911 texting by May 2014, with widespread deployment happening as soon as June 2013.