With cyber-bullying on the rise, it’s important for teenagers to talk to someone. In 2010, the Mental Health Association of Orange County (MHA) launched the Text 4 Teens program to give kids access to someone who can help them. “Texting is the primary communication for teens,” says Associate Executive Director Deborah de Jong. “We’re approaching them in a way in which they feel comfortable expressing their feelings.”
Teens can text the confidential line when they have a problem, whether it be related to bullying, drugs, sexting, or any other issue. The line, which is operated by trained MHA staff, is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to midnight on weekends, though de Jong hopes eventually to have it remain live 24/7. If a teenager texts during off hours, he or she receives a reply with the number for the MHA’s 24-hour crisis hot line.
After three years in operation, the program receives an average of 900 texts annually. “We have individuals who connect with us every night,” says de Jong. “Ultimately it’s a connection and resource some kids need to get them through whatever issues they’re facing.”
Reach Text 4 Teens at 845-391-1000.