The ‘Next Txt 4 Life’ could be your ownSometimes the answer to a complex problem is right in front of our eyes. When Carlton County Health and Human Services Director Dave Lee continued to see a high rate of suicide in young people around the county, he was not content to wait around for yet another focus group, another “best practices” verdict, another evidence-based solution.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Sometimes the answer to a complex problem is right in front of our eyes. When Carlton County Health and Human Services Director Dave Lee continued to see a high rate of suicide in young people around the county, he was not content to wait around for yet another focus group, another “best practices” verdict, another evidence-based solution.
“We just don’t have that kind of time when it comes to preventing any more suicides in our young people,” he said.
When Lee and a few of the other members of the local Suicide Prevention Task Force sat down to talk about ways to get through to young people before they make the life-changing decision to attempt suicide, it didn’t take long for fellow task force member Jim Youngman of the Human Development Center to come up with a plan of action.
“Why not ask the kids?” said Youngman.
Indeed, why not ask the kids? It’s surely not rocket science, but it’s probably the simplest and best means of discovering how best to encourage young people to reach out for help and support.
And so, that’s just what the task force did. They turned to the 50-member-strong LIFE group in Moose Lake, a student organization formed to process and talk about teen suicide with an eye toward preventing it. The young people in the group attested to the fact that while suicide hotlines are a valuable tool to anyone in crisis, they are far from a perfect means for today’s youth.
“Kids today are communicating through texting and Facebook,” reported Lee. “In order to get through to them, we have to meet them where they’re at.”
That’s pretty much how the whole idea for the “Next Txt 4 Life” initiative came about. Carlton County, along with the Minnesota Crisis Center in Richfield, is seeking grant funding to jump start a plan that would make it possible to text to the Suicide Prevention Hotline in lieu of calling. A handful of other states have already modified their technology to make this possible, and Lee said that early indications show the results to be extremely positive.
It’s a solution whose time has come, and let’s hope the county is successful in securing the necessary grant funding before any more time goes by. After all, if a young person is more apt to send a text message when in need of help and support, then so be it.
“If we can just slow these kids down [when they’re contemplating suicide],” said Lee, “I think we’ll find that time is on our side.”
– Wendy Johnson