Support offered for students through crisis texting program


Text4Hope is a crisis texting program and resource made available this semester for college students who are dealing with any type of crisis or challenge.

These challenges might include depression, grief, substance use or abuse, suicide, anxiety, relationship difficulties or concerns about someone else.

When students reach out to Text4Hope, trained crisis workers respond to the texts – the staff has bachelor’s or master’s degrees in human services, such as social work, psychology and counseling. They assess the situation, identify any risks and notify the proper authorities if necessary.

Students can text or call 1-800-273-TALK(8255) when they find themselves in need of help. 

Lori Montis, suicide crisis and support director at the Helpline Center, said the center has been offering this resource to high school students since 2012 and has recently expanded to three colleges in the state: South Dakota State University, Augustana University and the University of Sioux Falls.

Montis hopes that the use of texting will encourage students struggling to seek help in a way that makes them feel comfortable.

“This program lets students reach out for help at what can be a challenging time in their life through a means of communication that they are perhaps most comfortable using,” Montis said.

Darci Nichols, a staff counselor at the Student Health Clinic, agrees that the millennial age group is more likely to text than call.

“This is a brilliant way for people to reach out for help. They don’t have to fear talking to that stranger at the end of the line,” Nichols said.

A study by the Pew Research Center shows that young adults between 18-24 years old receive an average of 109.5 text messages a day and 97 percent of those who own a cell phone use it to text. This research makes the Text4Hope an evidence-based program.

The Counseling Services at the Student Health Clinic receives about 3,500 visits a year.

“I would say that anxiety is the most diagnosed for students who seek our services. We see that and know there is probably undiagnosed anxiety as well,” Nichols said.

The busiest times for the five full-time counselors at the clinic are midterms, finals and even after spring break.

“The stress throughout the calendar year is acyclical and somewhat predictable,” Nichols said.

Stephne Russell, a senior early childhood education major, believes the Text4Hope is a great resource for college students to have, despite the fact that a text message is less personal than a phone call or conversation in person.

“I’m glad that SDSU is implementing this new program because it offers yet another way for students to reach out in times of need,” Russell said. “It is nice to know that the school cares about the students and their challenging situations enough to create multiple ways for us to get help.”

Text4Hope is offered through a youth suicide prevention grant that the state Department of Social Services received and the Helpline Center is helping to implement some of the grant activities.

So far, Text4Hope has been utilized by students from each university that implemented the program.

“We are in the early stages of kicking off the program, but have started receiving texts from all three universities,” Montis said. “Students have been texting in for issues such as eating disorders, loneliness and difficulty with transitioning to college.”

Currently, SDSU is the only public university in the state to implement this program.

Aside from Text4Hope, students can also call the crisis line through dialing 2-1-1 or 1-800-273-TALK(8255), which is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that the Helpline Center answers for South Dakota. These numbers are answered 24/7.