Adolescents in Crisis: A Spatial Exploration of Mental Distress Using Data from Crisis Text Line

Authors: Laura Thompson*, Appalachian State University, Maggie Sugg, Appalachian State University, Jennifer Runkle, Appalachian State University
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, United States
Keywords: mental health, big data, United States, adolescents
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:40 PM
Room: Napoleon B1, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Mental health issues contribute considerably to the global disease burden, and prior research demonstrates that mental health outcomes vary over time and across space. Challenges associated with mental health research, including data collection and sharing, have limited researchers’ abilities to study the patterns of mental stress and identify reliable indicators. Much existing literature focuses on regional scales and relies on survey data. This study expands on mental health research in the United States using one-of-a-kind data obtained from Crisis Text Line. Crisis Text Line provides a national record of the crisis support-seeking habits of adolescents at the county level from August 2013 through July 2017. This hypothesis-generating study identifies areas in the United States displaying above and below-average rates of crisis support seeking related to anxiety, depression, suicide and other mental health outcomes. Cluster analysis expands on the limited literature utilizing spatial statistics to understand regional and temporal variations in mental health outcomes. Multivariate analysis considers a wide variety of spatially heterogeneous socioeconomic, demographic, and environmental variables that may affect observed mental health outcomes. Preliminary findings suggest spatial and temporal variability in adolescent mental health outcomes. Results will contribute to the limited pool of national-level studies, offer an alternative to survey-based data and identify regions that warrant further investigation at local scales. Understanding mental health outcomes from a geographic perspective is an essential first step towards targeted local interventions aimed at improving mental health equity for a variety of vulnerable populations.

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