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Researchers cite benefits of texting services on mental health treatment

Interventions using technology could help consumers who are struggling

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Photo (c) martin-dm - Getty Images
Mental health struggles affect consumers of all ages -- kids, college students, and adults. However, finding the right treatment can be difficult. 

Now, researchers from Dartmouth College have found that something as simple as a text message can greatly benefit consumers in their mental health treatment. According to their new study, combining a texting service with other treatments can be a viable way for consumers to see improvements to their mental health. 

“This study is very exciting because we saw real improvement in those who utilized the text messaging-based intervention on top of normal care,” said researcher William J. Hudenko. “This was true for individuals with some of the most serious forms of mental illness. The results are promising, and we anticipate that people with less severe psychopathology may even do better with this type of mobile intervention.” 

Utilizing technology

To understand what effect texting could have on consumers’ mental health progress, the researchers provided a dedicated text-line to just under 50 participants involved in the study. The participants were dealing with mental illnesses like depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, and all were receiving support services like in-person therapy and medication. 

The text-line allowed participants to contact a licensed mental health professional with any concerns as they popped up throughout the day. The researchers assessed the participants’ progress at the three- and six-month marks and compared that with evaluations taken at the beginning of the study. 

The results showed that the text message intervention had overwhelmingly positive results. On a daily basis, the service was utilized about 70 percent of the time with no negative responses. Nearly 95 percent of the participants said having someone to text with throughout the day to help ease mental health concerns was beneficial to them. 

“A messaging-based intervention is an incredibly scalable, cost-effective way to help manage the enormous shortage of mental health capability in the U.S.,” said Hudenko. 

A great option for the pandemic 

The researchers explained that this intervention would be incredibly helpful in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only are consumers reporting higher levels of stress, but being confined to the house can make it harder for more people to have access to many traditional mental health services. However, texting is an easy way to help ease some of that stress. 

“Texting can help bridge this gap, by providing a means for mental health services to be continuously delivered,” said Hudenko. “A text-messaging psychotherapy is an excellent match for the current environment, as it provides asynchronous contact with a mental health therapist while increasing the amount of contact that an individual can have.” 

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