For the first time, Minnesotans who are contemplating suicide or experiencing a mental health crisis can get immediate counseling services — no matter where they live in the state — simply by sending a text message.
Crisis Text Line, a national nonprofit that provides round-the-clock counseling for people in crisis, has extended its suicide prevention and outreach efforts to the entire state, including the Twin Cities metro area.
With the service, which began Sunday, people who text the letters “MN” to the number 741741 will be connected to a trained counselor who will offer help and connect the individual to resources in their communities. The texting service will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will be accompanied by an aggressive marketing campaign by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS).
The new service is particularly important “given how reliant we have all become on texting,” said Claire Wilson, assistant commissioner of community supports at DHS.
The expansion should also make emergency help more accessible to the thousands of Minnesota teens who primarily communicate through text messaging and are unlikely to pick up a telephone, state officials said.
The change comes as the Minnesota Department of Health intensifies its efforts to reduce youth suicides, the second-leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24. In 2016, 111 Minnesotans between ages 10 and 24 killed themselves. Minnesota has a higher rate than the U.S. average (10.2 per 100,000 vs. 9.6 per 100,000) for this age group, according to the Department of Health.
Minnesota has had text suicide prevention and outreach services since 2011 through a program known as “Txt4Life.” But the service was available in only 54 of the state’s 87 counties, under a contract with Canvas Health of Oakdale. As of April 1, DHS replaced Txt4Life with Crisis Text Line, which has expanded the texting service to the entire state at no extra cost to taxpayers.
The service’s average wait time for a response is 39 seconds for callers who are in distress, DHS said. New York-based Crisis Text Line handles 50,000 messages each month from across the country.
Crisis Text Line is just one way for a person suffering from a mental health crisis to get help. More information about how to connect to crisis services is available at the Department of Human Services website. In the Twin Cities metro area, people can call **CRISIS (274747) from a cellphone to talk to a team of professionals.
In addition, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support for people in distress through its toll-free number: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).