Maryland mental health texting initiative aims to reach youths, rural communities

Maryland’s crisis hotline saw a significant increase in volume in recent months, especially in text messages, and a new text-based mental health initiative has been launched to help fight isolation and encourage mental wellness.

MD Mind Health is a new program developed by the health department’s Behavioral Health Administration in partnership with the state’s crisis hotline, Maryland 211.

“Staying connected with family, friends and other support systems is more challenging, and more important than ever,” said Robert R. Neall, health department secretary, in a statement. “In difficult times, it can make a difference to know you’re not alone.”

Callers who send a text to 898-211 will get supportive mental health messages and reminders on how to get immediate access to mental health services. They can also get tips on self-care, recommended podcasts and apps, inspirational quotes and information on community resources.

The health department said texting can reach those living in rural areas who have limited access to services, and it is a preferred way to communicate for teens and young adults, according to surveys.

Those in distress can call 211 directly, chat through its website or send a text to MD Mind Health, and they will be connected to a specialist who is available 24/7.

From March 2019 to March 2020, text messages increased by 842%, according to a health department news release. In addition, chats increased almost 84%, and calls increased almost 25%.

And from February 2020 (1,619 calls) and March 2020 (2,345 calls), calls to Maryland 211 increased by 45%.

The MD Mind Health program is an extension of mental outreach provided by the Behavioral Health Administration during the pandemic.

“Physical distancing has left many feeling more alone and isolated, and these feelings can fuel sadness, depression, cravings for substances and relapse, negative coping skills, thoughts of suicide and other mental health problems,” said Dr. Aliya Jones, Behavioral Health Administration Deputy Secretary.

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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