Help is Available for those Who Need It
TEXT4HOPE works with any cellphone. Text COVID19HOPE to 393939 to subscribe.
Feeling stress, anxiety and depression due to the COVID-19 crisis? There is help available.
The Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation, the Calgary Health Trust, the University Hospital Foundation, and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, is supporting a new Alberta Health Services program Text4Hope – a free service providing three months of daily Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)–based text messages written by mental health therapists.
An Alberta-based innovation, Text4Hope is an evidence-based tool that helps people identify and adjust the negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours a pandemic might be expected to provoke.
Through a set of daily messages, people receive advice and encouragement helpful in developing healthy personal coping skills and resiliency.
Community members simply subscribe to receive ongoing supportive content. There is no cost.
In the Fort McMurray fires, research undertaken in relation to a similar tool identified user stress, anxiety and depression reductions up to 25%. Similar results are expected with Text4Hope.
How to Connect
The program provides one-way communication and does not replace other mental health therapies and supports. It is a helpful option for people in self-isolation who can’t access face-to-face services, as well as those in remote locations.
All mental health support lines remain open. For details on what is available in your health region, visit this AHS resource.
Research indicates those who receive daily supportive CBT-based text messages feel better and develop the skills needed to significantly reduce mood-related symptoms.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted normal, everyday life for many Albertans. Issues and fears related to contracting COVID, self-isolation, social distancing, economic impacts, job loss and uncertainty, school and day home closures, supply pressures and panic purchasing have heightened anxiety, stress and depression.
While research based on other crises suggests 10% of Albertans will need mental health support, the mass impact of the COVID-19 pandemic suggests a much higher demand for services.
Text4Hope is an innovative, low-cost ($4 per person) and highly accessible tool. The Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation is committed to providing $100K for the program launch, as well as additional funds to ensure all Albertans interested in subscribing to the program have access.
Frequently Asked Questions
What need does Text4Hope address?
The global COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted normal, everyday life for many Albertans. Issues and fears related to contracting COVID, self-isolation, social distancing, economic impacts, job uncertainty, school and day home closures, supply pressures and panic purchasing have heightened anxiety, stress and depression. Many Albertans will need mental health support during this unique circumstance.
A public health crisis of this magnitude is unprecedented leaving health care systems and resources overwhelmed. A scalable, low-cost and highly accessible tool like Text4Hope adds to the suite of mental health and wellness options available to Albertans.
Who should use Text4Hope?
Anyone feeling increased anxiety, stress and depression about the pandemic should subscribe to Text4Hope and try it. The program provides one-way communication and is not, otherwise, interactive. It does not replace other mental health therapies and supports, but adds a further option helpful in developing the coping skills needed for emotional regulation.
How does Text4Hope work?
Simply text COVID19HOPE to 393939 on your cell phone, complete the initial survey indicating your current base level of stress, depression and anxiety, and daily text messages will be sent to your phone for the next three months.
Text4Hope provides daily text messages to subscribers. The service is one-way and is not responsive to incoming texts. Texting into the program may result in text delivery fees for the subscriber.
Does clinical evidence support tangible outcomes from a text-based program of this nature?
Yes. Research outcomes from past programs, including Text4Mood, indicate those who receive daily supportive text messages feel better. There was a statistically significant difference in the reduction of mood symptoms as measured by The Beck Depression Inventory, compared to those who followed their usual course of treatment.
What level of endorsement have text-based programs of this nature received?
The Text4Mood program, upon which the Text4Hope program is based, received international acclaim from the Mental Health Innovation Network (MHIN) a global network of mental health innovators, researchers, practitioners, policy-makers, service users and donors. Selected by members of the MHIN’s core team based at the Centre for Global Mental Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and WHO’s Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, the program is now included in the “innovation” category of the MHIN online database as a new or different, successful and cost effective way of delivering better, evidence-based mental health care.
What if I find these services aren’t what I need?
If the Text4Hope service doesn’t work for you or your circumstances change, simply un-subscribe from the service by texting STOPCOVID19HOPE to 393939.
Who do I call to talk to someone more directly?
All mental health support lines remain open and available to those who need more intensive and interactive support. For details on what is available in your health region, please click through here.
How much does Text4Hope cost and is there a charge for this service?
While Text4Hope costs about $4 per person for three months of messaging, the service is being provided free of charge. Initial project costs were sponsored by the Mental Health Foundation and its partners.
We need your help. To donate to cover the cost of your service or the services of others, visit royalalex.org/text4hope. Your contributions will help ensure innovative, impactful and evidence-supported solutions like Text4Hope continue to be developed and provided.
What is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and how does it work with text messages?
CBT is short-term, evidence-based psychotherapy in which negative automatic thoughts, feelings, behaviours and core beliefs are identified non-judgmentally, tested, and then shifted when needed into healthy, adaptive thoughts that can be paired with behavioural action.
CBT-informed text messages encourage key, healthy, adaptive thoughts helpful in addressing the negative thoughts and feelings a pandemic might cause.
Who’s the clinical lead of the Text4Hope program?
The program is being led by Dr. Vincent I.O. Agyapong, MSc CCST FRCPsych FRAMI FRCPC FAPA MD (Research) PhD.
Dr. Agyapong is Clinical Professor & Director of Residents Quality Improvement Projects, and Research Director, Mood and Anxiety and Clinical Trials Programs in the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Alberta. He is also Edmonton Zone Clinical Section Chief, Community Mental Health and Psychiatrist Lead, Edmonton Zone Access, Consultation and Urgent Services with Addiction & Mental Health, at Alberta Health Services.