According to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association Canadians send 227 million text messages per day. That’s 82,855,000,000/year.
That is a whole lot of texting power that we mental health professionals might be able to tap into [no pun intended].
As you might expect the vast majority of these text messages are being sent by teens and young adults. The frequency of text messaging has increased year over year. In 2010 the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project reported that, amongst teens, the frequency of use of texting had overtaken the frequency of every other common form of interaction with their friends, including face-to-face interactions. 
And the ways in which texting is used have evolved as well. As a literature review of teenagers and texting points out, “multiple studies in various countries have been conducted on the content of young adults’ text messages, with similar results across studies. Many text messages have to do with coordination of events and maintaining relationships”. This is an area where texting might be useful for mental health initiatives.
Using text messaging seems to have been working well for health care. “The medical field has quickly adopted text messaging programs to communicate with typically hard to reach populations; provide important, but sensitive health related information; increase attendance for appointments through text reminders; and extend support for smoking cessation, weight loss, and various disease management programs.” Research from one program for teens with diabetes called ‘Sweet Talk’ has shown an increase in self-efficacy and a greater adherence to proper management of the disease. The benefit of many such texting programs is that patients became more active agents in their own health care.
Texting has definite limitations. The size of the screens and only being able to use 160 characters at a time are challenging. How can you effectively use a medium with these constraints to convey information or address issues that are emotionally charged? Good question.
And yet, some of the advantages of using text messaging, as identified by health researchers are:
- Visual anonymity
- Not location dependent
- Constant contact
How might we use text messaging in Mental Health initiatives? Most of the journal articles I read on this topic have focused on usability and feasibility pilot studies. There have been quite a few fascinating applications that I will share in my next blog post.
Dawn Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online, Inc.
 Lenhart, A. (2010). Teens, cell phones and texting: Summary of findings. Pew Research Center
Publications. Retrieved from http://pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2010/PIP-Teens-and-Mobile-2010-with-topline.pdf
 Porath, S. (2011). Text Messaging and Teenagers: A Review of the Literature. Journal of the Research Center for Educational Technology, 7 (2).
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA