To those of us born sometime before 1990 or so, the eternal mystery of teenagers and young people has a new wrinkle -- tech in general and texting in particular.
Most of us are familiar with and likely even own a cell phone. But if you see someone walking down the street with their head down and their thumbs hard at work, chances are good it's a teen or 20-something and it's a certainty they're texting. Or tweeting.
Whatever the case, they're communicating with someone, which seems to be the activity of choice for that generation. No group of people has ever had so many ways to say what they want to say to each other than kids in their teens or a few years older.
That doesn't mean, unfortunately, that they're any better than teenagers (or the rest of us, for that matter) have ever been at reaching out for help, particularly when they're in crisis and they don't know who to turn to, even though teenagers run a high risk of suicide, drug use, homelessness and other problems.
That's why a new grant that will allow the Third Level Crisis intervention center to receive messages via text could make such a difference.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant will allow Third Level to set up a pilot program in which a trained counselor will man a text line for four hours a day, five days a week.
Teens and young people are already so familiar with texting that the new service offers a comfort level they may not feel talking with someone over the phone or even emailing. Texting is as natural to them as talking, and they're on familiar turf. The relative anonymity that texting allows can also put them at ease and willing to say things they would never say to anyone, even their closest friend, and eases worries about being overheard.
"I'm most excited about reaching the kids who are out there, struggling with all sorts of stuff, and texting a kajillion times a day anyway," said Mickie Jannazzo, Third Level's clinical services director.
Texting provides a good outlet for those who might want to contact a counselor but are afraid to call, Jannazzo and executive director Ken Homa said.
The new service could also help the hearing-impaired seek help.
Anyone with a cellphone can send and receive texts. But emphasizing Third Level's ability and willingness to reach out via texting just opens more doors.
Contact Third Level at 922-4800 or www.thirdlevel.org.