Photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP / Getty Images
“Hello”, with only those four letters directed by text to 741741, Latinos will be able to access a free emotional support service in Spanish as of October 15 and for the first time in the country when they feel depressed, anxious, stressed or unwilling to continue living.
According to the EFE Agency, Crisis Text Line, is a service created in 2013 by a non-governmental organization, in order to help those in need through text messages.
The platform is bilingual as there is a shortage of mental health services in Spanish in the United States, explained Natalia Dayan, director of localization for Crisis Text Line.
Starting this October 15, Crisis Text Line will also be available through WhatsApp, an application widely used by Hispanics.
Dayan, an Argentine who has lived in the United States for more than 10 years, said that only 5.5% of psychologists in this country are capable of providing mental health services in Spanish, according to data from the American Psychological Association .
The language barrier
“It’s a ridiculous figure,” says Dayan, “if you take into account the great need” for these services among Latinos, as Crisis Text Line has been able to detect in the eight years it has been in operation.
As an example, he mentions that Hispanic adolescents constitute the group within all Crisis Text Line users that has initiated the most conversations about suicidal tendencies since 2013.
Dayan emphasizes that they decided to create the service in Spanish upon detecting that 17% of the people who chatted with the volunteers of the organization identified themselves as Latino or Hispanic and being aware of how high the language barrier is if access to mental health services in Spanish it is about.
The new Spanish service has been operating as a pilot project since last August and one of the main difficulties that Crisis Text Line has encountered is having a sufficient number of bilingual volunteers.
That is why Dayan calls on all who want to be trained to fulfill the role of helping Hispanics with problems that affect their mental health.
Algorithms to detect high risk
The training is provided by the team of professionals from Crisis Text Line, a non-profit organization that is mainly supported by donations and has an algorithm to identify high-risk people among users.
This tool makes it possible to automatically prioritize those users, who, unknowingly, become the first to whom the volunteers respond, explains Dayan.
There is no oral communication between the people who send a text to the Crisis Text Line starting with a “hello” – soon also with a “hello” – and the volunteers.
Efe asked Dayan if the voice would not give the volunteer a better idea of the situation the other person is going through.
The directive responded that a person’s tone of voice can obviously be helpful, but the text message has the advantage that it forces one to be “much more direct” and makes people feel “safer” when talking to a strange.
There is little room for circumlocution in a text message, but it is also more discreet, since a spoken conversation can be overheard.
“The new language is writing by message,” Dayan emphasizes.
Young people agree with this statement, as evidenced by the fact that the average age of users is around 24 years.
Crisis Text Line has about 98,000 conversations every 28 days, a figure that increased 19% during the pandemic. Applications from people who wanted to volunteer also grew (more than 15,000 applications were received through www.crisistextline.org/words.
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