Expanding Suicide Crisis Services to Text and Chat: Responders' Perspectives of the Differences Between Communication Modalities

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Abstract

Background: Crisis support services have historically been offered by phone-based suicide prevention hotlines, but are increasingly becoming available through alternative modalities, including Internet chat and text messaging. Aims: To better understand differences in the use of phone and chat/text services. Method: We conducted semistructured interviews with call responders at the Veterans Crisis Line who utilize multimodal methods to respond to veterans in crisis. Results: Responders indicated that veterans may access the chat/text service primarily for reasons that included a desire for anonymity and possible inability to use the phone. Responders were divided on whether callers and chatters presented with different issues or risk of suicide; however, they suggested that veterans frequently use chat/text to make their first contact with mental health services. Limitations: We spoke with call responders, not the veterans themselves. Additionally, as this is qualitative research, applicability to other settings may be limited. Conclusion: While new platforms offer promise, participants also indicated that chat services can supplement phone lines, but not replace them.

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