Apr 2, 2020 - Technology

Crisis Text Line fills added role in coronavirus pandemic

For years, Crisis Text Line has served as a 21st-century version of the call-in hotline, helping a largely young clientele manage life's challenges via text message. With the coronavirus outbreak, the line is now serving a new role as well — offering aid to a broader audience struggling to deal with a rapidly changed reality.

Why it matters: In addition to the direct health threat posed by the coronavirus, the pandemic and restrictions aimed at stemming it have led to all manner of anxieties, from health fears to money worries to social concerns.

In an interview for "Axios on HBO," Crisis Text Line CEO Nancy Lublin noted that the coronavirus has brought in queries from a wider range of age groups.

"Normally, 53% of our texters are under the age of 17," Lublin said. "We're seeing that decrease." By contrast, the service is now seeing a larger percentage of "older" callers, defined as those over 25.

  • Anxiety is the main concern, cited by more than three-quarters of texters. Normally, relationships and depression are the top issues.
  • "Symptom," "fever" and "cough" are now in the top 10 words nationally used by texters.
  • “Quarantine,” “lockdown” and “stuck” are also trending.

The big picture: While much attention has rightly been paid to the threat from the coronavirus itself, Lublin points to the many other pressing issues created by the pandemic — including lost jobs, social isolation and other impacts from people being forced to stay at home for long periods of time.

"I am concerned about what fear does," Lublin said. "I'm concerned that quarantines may lead to an increase in child abuse and domestic violence as people are quarantined with abusers and as stress runs high." Some groups may be impacted especially hard, she said — including LGBTQ youth, whose primary support came from peers at school, and undocumented immigrants.

"A lot of low-income immigrants are wage laborers. I'm worried that they don't have sick days, they don't have health care, and they may be pressured to work right now. And that they may not feel safe going to a hospital or seeking out health care because they would be worried about a forced deportation."
— Nancy Lublin

Go deeper: Increase in domestic violence feared during virus lockdown

Editor's note: Crisis Text Line can be reached 24 hours a day by texting HOME to 741741 and via Facebook Messenger from the organization's website.

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