Gaggle Speaks

Ideas, News & Advice for K-12 educators and administrators to help create safe learning environments.

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Written by Kim Bolz-Andolshek
on August 20, 2020

At Gaggle, we strive to help ensure the safety and well-being of students, and that includes raising awareness of the various resources available to help today’s students. We recognize that there’s a crisis in student mental health—with more than two-thirds of students from ages 13 to 18 requiring some level of professional help for a mental health condition—and know how important it is to ensure students know about and have access to these resources. This current state of student mental health further drives our passion for helping school districts identify those who are struggling.

Thankfully, there are resources that can help students in distress available in formats they’re both familiar and comfortable with. One of those resources is Crisis Text Line, which provides free mental health support via text message. Launched in 2013, Crisis Text Line has processed more than 150 million messages to date, helping texters of all ages with a variety of issues, such as anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide. Crisis Text Line is one of the rare resources that puts trained counselors at your fingertips—anytime, anywhere, and at no cost to the texter.

I was looking for a way to give back and offer my support to the mental health crisis, but needed a flexible solution that still allowed me to work, spend time with my kids, and attend to my other commitments. I decided to volunteer with Crisis Text Line and completed their training program before becoming a Crisis Counselor late last year. The training included skills such as reflective listening, collaborative problem solving, and crisis management, which are all imperative when it comes to offering support to those in crisis.

Since December, I’ve been logging on each week to try my best to de-escalate issues for a variety of texters. While I never receive identifiable information about those who are texting me, such as their ages, context clues can generally give me an idea as to whether or not I’m dealing with a younger student, older student, or adult—although our statistics show that over 75% of texters who reach out to us are under the age of 24. I never know who will be on the other end of the line, so I have to be prepared for whatever may come my way.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in March, which saw more than 55 million students across the United States shift to distance learning, the fear and uncertainty associated with COVID-19 has been a frequent issue with texters. More recently, there has been a spike in issues relating to racism, especially in regard to the Black Lives Matter movement. Whatever texters want to discuss, I’m always ready to listen and offer a truly safe place to connect and receive support.

With each texter who reaches out, we ensure their safety and well-being with a brief risk assessment. Suicide and self-harm are common reasons for texting in, and our outlet can be a safe place to talk about how the texter is feeling and help to de-escalate situations. These concerning conversations can take a toll on us counselors, but Crisis Text Line is incredibly supportive of its volunteers, promoting self-care after counselors respond to high-risk texters. While the subject matter can be incredibly heavy at times, I’m proud to be aligned with this resource and offer struggling individuals this much-needed help at their fingertips.

If you or a student are in a crisis and need support, text HOME to 741741 to connect with a counselor. The live, trained counselors at Crisis Text Line are ready to offer support 24/7.

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