Texting for help: Processes and impact of text counseling with children and youth with suicide ideation
Sindahl, T.N., Cote, L-P., Dargis, L., Mishara, B.L., & Jensen, T.B.
To explore: (1) how children contacting a child helpline with suicide ideation differ from children discussing other topics, (2) whether text messaging effectively helps, and (3) which counselor behaviors are most effective.
Of 6,060 text sessions at the Danish national child helpline, 444 concerned suicidality, of which the 102 sessions that included self‐rated, end Session ratings were selected for content analysis.
Twenty‐six percentage of suicidal children had severe suicidality. The suicide sample had significantly more girls, was older than the nonsuicide sample, and more often recontacted the helpline in the 2 weeks prior to follow‐up. 35.9% of suicidal children felt better immediately and over half ended the session with a plan of action. At follow‐up, 23.9% of suicidal children reported feeling better; however, 37.0% reported feeling worse. Talking about emotions, expressing empathy, and encouraging the child to talk to someone were associated with positive impacts. Setting boundaries was associated with negative impacts.
Texting with suicidal children can be helpful, but should be considered a first step toward obtaining more sustainable help. Research is needed to determine how to better help children who felt worse or did not improve in the 2 weeks after contacting the helpline. Suggestions to further training of counselors are discussed.