Coronavirus and mass layoffs are causing a dramatic spike in people seeking help from crisis text hotlines

Coronavirus and mass layoffs are causing a dramatic spike in people seeking help from crisis text hotlines

crisis text line, woman texting sad

Dragana Gordic/Shutterstock

The Crisis Text Line offers free, confidential help 24/7 in the US, Canada, and the UK.

  • The Crisis Text Line, which operates in the US, Canada, and the UK, provides free confidential crisis intervention via text message.
  • Over the last two weeks, the number of texts to the hotline has been 47% to 116% higher than an average day, corresponding with a dramatic spike in novel coronavirus cases, as well as historic unemployment in the US.
  • The hotline has seen many texts coming in with the words "furloughed," "laid off," and "virus," a spokesperson told Business Insider.
  • The number of crisis counselor volunteers has doubled since before the pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The novel coronavirus pandemic is a mental health crisis, too.

The Crisis Text Line - a nonprofit providing free confidential crisis intervention via text message that operates in the US, Canada, and the UK - has seen a spike in the number of people reaching out for help.
Advertisement
The hotline has seen between 47% to 116% more texts per day over the past two weeks than it does on an average day. The spike coincides with the worsening of the novel coronavirus worldwide, as well as historic layoffs in the US.

Counselors affiliated with the nonprofit are seeing more people texting the terms "furloughed" "landlord," and "layed/laid off," signaling the economic impact of the coronavirus could be taking a severe mental toll on many, Sara Li, social media and marketing coordinator at the Crisis Text Line, told Business Insider.

In the last two weeks, about 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment, with a record-making 6.6 million new jobless claims filed for the week ending in March 28, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This dwarfs the previous record of 695,000 claims filed in 1982, during the 1980s recession.
Advertisement

"The coronavirus is impacting people of all socioeconomic statuses, but around half of texters in crisis reaching out are from low-income households," Li said. "Some 32% of our texter households are under $20,000 per year in income."

There's also been an increase in the number of people saying they're anxious, Li said. Now, if you visit their website, a pop up appears with the text: "Anxious about Coronavirus? Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor. We're here to help." Text messages mentioning "virus" have also increased, with 80% of people mentioning the word "virus" discussing feelings of anxiety.
Advertisement

Amid the surge in texts to the hotline, there is some good news, however. The number of people who have volunteered to be a crisis counselor, the person who responds to crisis texts, has doubled since the spread of the pandemic.

The Crisis Text Line isn't the only resource seeing an uptick in demand. Online therapy is growing in popularity as people social distance and self-quarantine to stop the spread of the pandemic. Carl Nordstrom, the CEO of Online Therapy, told Insider that, the last week, his company saw a more than 30% increase in new clients compared to the week before.

"We have a strong feeling that people are generally more anxious because of the coronavirus," he told Insider.
Advertisement

At the same time, more companies have started to roll out mental health benefits, responding to employee needs. Starbucks, for example, recently announced that all of its employees who work 20 hours or more per week will now be entitled to expanded mental health benefits through its employee assistance program. Professional services firm PwC also announced expanded mental health benefits.

"If companies had not recognized the importance of supporting employees through mental health benefits it's got to be crystal clear now," Michael Fenlon, chief people officer at PwC, previously told Business Insider.

If you're struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, or suicidal thoughts, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357) anytime for free, confidential help or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
Advertisement
Do you have a personal experience with the coronavirus you'd like to share? Or a tip on how your town or community is handling the pandemic? Please email covidtips@businessinsider.com and tell us your story.

And get the latest coronavirus analysis and research from Business Insider Intelligence on how COVID-19 is impacting businesses.

{{}}