Texting for mental health

A text messaging system offering mental health resources and advice to students is good for the University.

Boynton Health Service is looking to expand its mental health services for students through a proposed text message-based program, which would offer help to students in a crisis and students just seeking advice. Boynton will submit a grant application to the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute by mid-January in hopes of acquiring funding for the program, the Minnesota Daily reported Nov. 26. Even if Boynton is not granted funding, Boynton’s Director and Chief Health Officer Ferd Schlapper told the Daily that Boynton would still pursue the texting program.

The news of this proposal, aimed at increasing access to mental health resources, comes at a critical time for University of Minnesota students. The 2013 Boynton Health survey reported 19.3 percent of University students have been diagnosed with depression within their lifetime, up from 16.6 percent in 2010. Boynton Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Christenson told the Daily that student demand for mental health resources increases by about 5 percent every year.

A scientific literature review analyzing the effectiveness of smartphone delivery of mental health programs, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in November, indicated that mental health apps have a strong potential for improving treatment accessibility. Though this review focused primarily on downloadable apps for smartphones, it is likely that text messaging programs could provide a similar benefit.

For many students, text messaging is a primary method of communication and would be a useful and approachable mode of delivery for students seeking immediate help or advice. The University should support Boynton’s effort to create a text messaging program, regardless of whether they are awarded a grant.