More People Turn to Crisis Chat Rooms

By Kathleen Serino, Reporter

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By Adam Carros

IOWA CITY – A lot more people in Johnson County are turning to one online chat portal for help, especially to talk about suicide.

The Crisis Chat was established in May in response to becoming more in tune with online communication, Community Intervention Director Keri Neblett with the Johnson County Crisis Center said, adding online chat rooms are a growing trend among other crisis centers, so they joined in also.

“We need to communicate in a way that people feel more comfortable,” Neblett said.

Sara Knox, a crisis intervention coordinator who often works the chats, noted chat room volunteers receive a lot of chats from people as young as 13.

She noted that there is something about the “intensity” of talking to a person on the phone that can become difficult for a caller.

Most calls the 24-hour Crisis Line receives are from adults 30 and over who mostly are feeling lonely and frustrated and just need to talk (about 20% of monthly calls), Knox said. But the primary cries for help online are suicide-related, she noted.

“There’s this phenomena of people who are willing to talk about their feelings when they aren’t face-to-face and on the Internet,” she said, adding some people have told volunteers they tell them things they don’t even tell anyone else, including therapists.

About 130 of the 846 total contacts from October where conducting in the chat room, Knox said, adding the number spiked significantly when they joined the national group, crisischat.org, in August. And she expects the number to continue to rise.

Records indicated of the 131 chatters in October, 21 were men, 103 were women, and the rest were trans-gender or questioning, Knox said.

The Crisis Chat operates weekdays from 2 to 8 p.m. locally, but the national portal operates noon to midnight everyday.

A cell phone text initiative might be in the future as well, but Neblett said she wants to secure this outlet before pursuing another.

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