Watch LIVE

People Get Way More Depressed after 7 p.m. — And 5 a.m. Is When Teens Struggle Most with Substance Abuse


"He won't stop raping me."

Depressed teen

Anxiety, drug abuse, feeling isolated — teenagers go through a lot of harsh experiences, some self-inflicted and some not.

As it turns out, different problems tend to rear their heads at different times of the day.

The tool above comes from Crisis Text Line, a New York-based nonprofit that offers text message counseling to (mostly) teenagers.

Using information from more than 3.3 million texted cries for help, Crisis Text Line's Bob Filbin was able to chart the prevalence of different issues at different points during the day.

Depression, family issues and self harm struggles tend to manifest in the evening, which, as Dr. Victoria Dunkley noted in Psychology Today earlier this year, might have something to do with sleep-deprived teens bathing in artificial light and never getting enough healing rest.

Substance abuse comes on strongest at the beginning and end of the day: 5 a.m. and 7 p.m.

LGBT issues peak during school hours, which makes some intuitive sense — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gay youth were 61 percent more likely than straight youth to report feeling unsafe or uncomfortable due to their sexual orientation and bullying, and a quarter of LGBT youth have skipped classes or whole school days because they said they felt unsafe at school.

Sexual abuse is an all-day struggle, as are suicidal thoughts.

Filbin also created tools to chart psychological struggles throughout the week...

...and on a state-by-state basis.

As Crisis Text Line founder Nancy Lublin noted in a TED Talk, using technology to stay aware of and respond to teenagers' issues is a matter of saving lives.

"I don't want to go to school today," Lublin recalled one text lamenting. "The boys call me f****t."

Another, far more disturbing message: "He won't stop raping me. He told me not to tell anyone. It's my dad. Are you there?"

Lublin said that the support and data collection that text-based counseling can offer could "save more lives than penicillin":

We can help millions of teens with counseling and referrals. That's great.

But the thing that really makes this awesome is the data. Because I'm not really comfortable just helping that girl with counseling and referrals. I want to prevent this s*** from happening.

So think about a cop. There's something in New York City. The police did it. It used to be just guess work, police work. And then they started crime mapping. And so they started following and watching petty thefts, summonses, all kinds of things -- charting the future essentially. And they found things like, when you see crystal meth on the street, if you add police presence, you can curb the otherwise inevitable spate of assaults and robberies that would happen. In fact, the year after the NYPD put CompStat in place,the murder rate fell 60 percent.

So think about the data from a crisis text line... Imagine having real time data on [bullying and dating abuse and eating disorders and cutting and rape]. You could inform legislation. You could inform school policy.


I'm actually really excited about the power of data and the power of texting to help that kid go to school, to help that girl stop cutting in the bathroom and absolutely to help that girl whose father's raping her.

Featured image via Shutterstock

(H/T: The Atlantic)

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

Most recent
All Articles