RICHMOND, Va. -- October marks World Mental Health Month. The United Nations organized the global campaign as an opportunity to reduce stigma and help people empathize with the challenges that many struggle to overcome.
"There's definitely an increased need, increasing volume of people reaching out to us," Becka Ross, with the Crisis Text Line, said.
Ross is a licensed clinical social worker and the chief program officer at the Crisis Text Line.
"We are powered by 10,000 people who are ready to show you empathy whenever you feel alone," Ross said.
The national non-profit provides a free around-the-clock crisis intervention text message hotline.
"Anybody can reach out to us at any point when they feel that they are in an emotional or mental health crisis. We don't define the crisis, the person coming to us does. We're really here and built for any type of crisis," Ross said.
From the palm of your hands at any hour, Becka said you can reach people who want to help you by sending "hello" to 741-741.
"It's a way to sort of reach out in the moment of crisis. if you have your phone, you're out to lunch with friends, or you're at school or wherever you might be, you can discreetly be texting with us to talk through anxiety or a panic attack or any other issue. The most common topics that come up in our conversations are depression and sadness, anxiety and stress, and then also isolation and loneliness," Ross said.
The crisis text line has been operating since 2013 and Ross said counselors are starting to recognize an alarming trend.
"We are seeing increased rates of younger texters and in more crisis conversations. It's clear that the country's youth mental health crisis is growing deeper and deeper," Ross said.
According to the organization, in 2021, almost 26% of the calls from Virginia were focused on suicide which is higher than the national average of about 24%.
"We had more than 28,000 conversations with texters in Virginia. And we were seeing specifically that 32% of texters from Virginia are aged 14 to 17, which is a pretty significant number, and then almost 29% between the ages of 18 and 24," Ross said.
As for the texts for help that continue to come in, Ross said she is certain that the crisis line is saving lives.
"Our goal is always to empower the texters. We just want to make sure that people don't feel alone, remember their strength and are able to live healthy lives," Ross said.
Ross said the more we talk about mental health and realize that we all have it, the more we will reduce the stigma that surrounds the issue.
If you notice that you're sleeping more often, eating less, irritable or you just don't feel like yourself, you could be going through something that's impacting your mental health and Ross said you should take the warning signs seriously.