By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
People in crisis can reach out for help from the Mississippi Department of Mental Health without saying a word.
The Mississippi Department of Mental Health has launched Talk About It, which allows people to access the department’s help line counselors anonymously by text or e-mail through the Talk About It website.
“We really realized in this day and age, technology rules,” said Shannon Rushton, department director of constituency services that includes Helpline and Lifeline, which is part of the national suicide prevention efforts.
Users can send messages from computers or texts from cell phones and they will go anonymously to counselors who cover the call lines, Ruston said.
It’s a safe, non-threatening, confidential way for people to reach out for help for a gamut of problems from financial worries and stress to severe depression and suicidal thoughts.
Oxford-based AnComm has launched the Talk About It program at 400 schools in 19 states. It is a closed system that connects students with trained counselors and teachers on their campuses, said Carter Myers, AnComm president.
“It’s been very successful as a way for students and teens to come forward and break the ice in a safe way,” Myers said.
To use the system, people log in online and create a profile. In creating the profile, they can put in a cell number into their profile to enable texting.
The system sends the text or message anonymously, keeping them in separate conversational threads so the counselors never see any identifying information unless the person gives it to them.
“It’s an effective way to serve this population,” Myers said. “They don’t use the phone to call.”
For both the school and the Department of Mental Health programs, AnComm users remain anonymous unless they threaten to harm themselves, others or school property.
A lot of messages
The Talk About It has received more than 40,000 messages, Myers said, and less than 1 percent of the messages reach the safety threshold where anonymity has to be breached.
The Mental Health Department program is the first of its kind to be open to the wider community, and other state mental health departments are watching, Myers said.
So far, the mental health department site, launched in January, has 77 registered users and 626 log-ins. The Helpline and Lifeline together average between 600 and 700 calls a month, Rushton said.
“This is really cutting edge,” Rushton said. “It has the potential to grow and really reach young adults.”
Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or firstname.lastname@example.org.