Fine Gael T.D. for Sligo, Leitrim, South Donegal and North Roscommon Frank Feighan has said that “A free, anonymous and inclusive text service has been launched to provide support for people going through a mental health or emotional crisis.
Deputy Feighan said: “‘50808’ is a first of its kind for Ireland, a free 24/7 text service, providing everything from a calming chat to immediate support for people who need it.
“Many people – particularly young people – don’t feel comfortable making that call or reaching out for help.
“This is a service that will offer a lifeline to people of all ages across Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal and Roscommon and indeed across the country.
“It’s been an exceptionally difficult time for our country, and this service is needed more than ever. There is no doubt the launch of 50808 by Crisis Text Line will save lives.”
Deputy Feighan continued: “50808 has been in development for some time, and it couldn’t launch at a more important moment.
“The service’s trained Crisis Volunteers will help people through this current crisis and will continue to provide free, 24/7 support in the long term.
“This life-saving service is part of the government’s strategy to protect the mental health of all members of the public.
“I’d like to commend my Fine Gael colleagues, the Minister for Health Simon Harris and the Minister for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly for prioritising this essential service.
“Since the initiative began its pilot in September last year, it has provided support to 3,801 people through 6,694 conversations. It is expected that ‘50808’ will support over 50,000 people each year once fully operational.
“Of the almost four thousand people supported;
- 832 people were thinking about suicide
- 360 people were self-harming
- The top issues discussed were: Anxiety/stress (40%), Depression/sadness (32%), Relationships (29%), Isolation/loneliness (23%) and Suicide (18%)
- 80% of texters have been between the ages of 16 and 34
- 65% of texters were female, 24% male, 2% transgender and 2% non-binary
- 30% of texters identified as LGBTI+
- 35% of texters are living with a disability, an existing mental health condition, or other medical condition
- Reasons for texting: Didn’t have anyone else to talk to (50%), Wanted to talk to someone who didn’t know me (48%), More comfortable texting than talking (40%), To embarrassed to talk on the phone or in person (31%), Didn’t have access to a therapist (31%)
Deputy Feighan continued: “The service uses an artificial intelligence (AI) system to analyse a texter’s initial message, scanning keywords, phrases, and even emojis to determine the level of severity. The texter’s at most imminent risk are placed at the top of the queue.
“50808 has performed over 100 “Active Rescues” since beginning in pilot phase in September 2019 in which the National Ambulance Service is contacted for a texter in need of emergency support.
“The service allows trained Crisis Volunteers to volunteer from home. Crisis Volunteers complete a 30-hour training and have 24/7 supervision by full-time mental health professionals.”
Deputy Feighan concluded: “The COVID-19 crisis has been a challenging time for us all. If you need to talk, please pick up the phone and text 50808 where you will be connected to a trained and compassionate volunteer. The service is available 24/7.”