The Text That Can Save a Life

If you live in Lake or McHenry Counties — and soon if you live in New Trier Township — please be sure that your loved ones know they can text 847HELP to 274637.

This text reaches Text-A-Tip, the only text crisis hotline in the country that provides complete anonymity and access to local licensed mental health professionals.

Text-A-Tip was started in Lake Forest/Lake Bluff two years ago by LEAD (Linking Efforts Against Drugs) as the result of extensive community conversations following a cluster of suicides by local teens in 2012. “There were people who knew those students were struggling, but no reporting structure existed,” explains LEAD Executive Director Andy Duran. “We sought to create something immediate, anonymous, easy and safe.”

Text-A-Tip quickly spread to other towns across the two participating counties, as well as to Riverside, California. It launches in New Trier Township in early March.

To implement and run the program, LEAD relies on critical partnerships with school districts (nearly every school district in Lake and McHenry Counties is — or will soon be — participating) as well as these key partner organizations:

When a young adult or someone they care about is struggling with depression, they can simply send a text and, within minutes, will receive an affirming response, intended to make them feel good about reaching out. They will then be connected to the individuals or resources that can best support their current needs. Often a counselor from a partner organization stays involved for an extended period of time.

Demand is disconcertingly high; Text-A-Tip is poised to receive its 20,000th text. But many lives have already been saved, according to Duran. “It’s rare that a program actually saves lives. This one does.”

Not only does Text-A-Tip save lives, it also strengthens the communities it serves by facilitating dialogue, fostering shared connections across partner organizations and generating important data. This data helps participating organizations identify trends and causes, then coordinate responses.

Even if only one life is saved, the cost to start and run Text-A-Tip seems like a bargain — only $15,000–20,000 per year. Nonetheless, LEAD is working hard to reduce costs further in order to make it easier to expand the program across Illinois, and ultimately the country, especially to other areas where suicide has reached epidemic proportions. Indeed, so many teen suicides have occurred in Palo Alto in recent years that the Centers for Disease Control is currently studying this and trying to help the community.

How can you help? “We’re always looking for community partners, licensed clinicians, other ways to collaborate and donations,” says Duran.

Make It Better is proud to be the media sponsor of LEAD’s annual gala, A Night on the Red Carpet, on March 12. We encourage your support of this event too.

To learn more about LEAD and Text-A-Tip, please see these ABC 7 news clips.


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