May 22, 2020
As armies of courageous healthcare workers continue to help Americans to combat the COVID-19 crisis, an ingenious startup service is enabling those of us who are sheltering in place to exchange unconditional messages of love and support with frontline heroes, the Good News Network (GNN) reports.
The #Text For Humanity switchboard, created by telecommunications provider Sinch in partnership with Mental Health America (MHA), originally launched in January to combat online negativity and promote the sharing of positive messages between strangers.
As the world moves into the next phase of the crisis, #TextForHumanity now enables people choosing to participate to identify themselves as either a frontline worker, or someone living in isolation. In turn, senders can choose the group they would like to send a personalized message of thanks and support. Frontline workers include anyone from nurses and doctors to delivery drivers and grocery store staffers—people performing the vital jobs that are keeping society going.
There is no charge for the service; neither Sinch nor MHA profits from #Text For Humanity.
However, MHA’s screening numbers have been growing since the start of the pandemic. MHA has seen a 70% increase in the number of people taking an anxiety (GAD-7) screen and a 64% increase in the number of people taking a depression (PHQ-9) screen between January and April.
“These are worrying times for many people and psychological well-being is severely impacted,” said Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Mental Health America. “Prolonged isolation can increase incidences of poor mental health, particularly for the most vulnerable in society. And then there’s the incredible burden placed on brave frontline workers. People putting their own lives at risk while saving others, and keeping society safe and functioning. We see Text For Humanity as an important route to engage them.”
Text For Humanity is now enabled by WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and regular text messaging—so it’s easy for anyone with even the most basic phone to join. This is particularly important for the elderly who are among the least likely to own a smartphone.
To join the service, text JOIN to 37352 (U.S. only) or +1 833-421-4726 (additional international number options and links to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are available through the platform’s website). The service will ask for a couple of simple details including whether you are a frontline worker or living in isolation. As before, all data is stored securely, and no personal or identifying details will be known or shared.
You can then write a short message that gives a frontline worker or someone in isolation a smile. Once you’ve sent the message, Text For Humanity will share it with a fellow human somewhere in the world. Not only that, you will then receive a positive message from a stranger on your own phone. Messages you receive can also be transformed into vibrant and personalized artwork that can be easily shared from a smartphone on social media.
Research contact: @goodnewsnetwork