How communities can support young people experiencing mental health crisis

Crisis Text Line
Crisis Text Line
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
7 February 2024

Crisis Text Line – a non-profit that provides free, 24/7, confidential text-based mental health and crisis intervention in English and Spanish – has released a new study with Common Good Labs that examines the lack of access to mental health support for young people, and offers six solutions that would support their mental health.

Virgin Unite has proudly supported Crisis Text Line since 2020 via The Audacious Project. Housed at TED, The Audacious Project, was brought to life through the collaboration of some of the most respected names in the non-profit and philanthropy worlds – a funding initiative catalysing social impact on a grand scale. Formative partners include the Skoll Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Scott Cook and Signe Ostby, Virgin Unite and more. 

Crisis Text Line partnered with Common Good Labs to analyse anonymised conversations that young people under 18 had with Crisis Text Line’s volunteer crisis counselors via text message. The study identified the six most common resources teens say they need from their communities, including: 

  • Opportunities for social connection

  • Engagement in music, writing, visual and performing arts

  • Mental health services

  • Exercise and sports programmes

  • Books and audiobooks

  • Outdoor spaces and nature

“We hear from young people in distress every day about the issues they are facing and more importantly, the resources they are seeking to support their mental health,” says Dena Trujillo, CEO of Crisis Text Line. “Local communities and government officials must work together to address these concerns and ensure mental health resources are accessible to all in order to combat the growing mental health epidemic.” 

Teen depression and suicide rates have increased significantly in the last decade. At the same time, communities have been cutting the funding for resources that may help teenagers to improve their mental health. For example, for more than a decade, local governments across the US have cut funding for parks by more than $2.5 billion, while  spending on local libraries is 5% lower on a per capita basis.

In Philadelphia, art and music education have been cut and deemed less essential, New York has proposed the largest cuts to libraries in local history, and Los Angeles cut after-school programmes in more than 500 schools. These cuts across the US have reduced the number of children participating in extracurricular clubs by 1.5 million, and the number of those playing high school sports by 1.8 million. 

“Data is not just information; it's a key to unlocking solutions for our communities,” said Rohit Acharya, partner at Common Good Labs. “Through our partnership with Crisis Text Line, we analysed anonymous data from thousands of conversations with teens about the resources they need to support their mental health. The results provide a roadmap for local leaders to invest in proven solutions and combat the mental health crisis facing communities across America.” 

According to this new study, the lack of access to resources for coping with a mental health crisis is widespread and varies by geography. Among rural areas, 90% of teenagers have no access to any of the coping solutions identified in the research, compared to 60% in counties near metropolitan areas.

Read the full details of the study on the Crisis Text Line website.