At Crisis Text Line, we recognize the distinct connection between societal issues, like gun violence and climate change, and our mental health.
Below are issue briefs that lay out the research and provide insight into how mental and emotional well-being may be influenced by societal events.
Gun violence is a public health crisis that threatens the physical and mental health of our communities. It deserves a public health response.
Incidents of gun violence and the fear of gun violence in public settings cause tremendous stress, anxiety, and trauma. The National Center for PTSD estimates that 28 percent of people who have survived a mass shooting develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and about a third develop acute stress disorder. This presents a preventable strain on our communities and on our under-resourced mental health system. Additionally, the recurrence of these traumatic incidents can be very triggering, inciting vicarious trauma as people witness the violence nationally.
While this is a complicated issue, the risk factors identified in research can help inform a comprehensive set of policy solutions to limit gun violence and correlated mental health stressors.
- There is a correlation between access to lethal means and suicide. Access to firearms increases the risk of suicide and homicide, particularly with those experiencing mental illness symptoms. Additionally, firearms are consistently the most lethal modality for suicide by far. In fact, access to a gun in the home increases the risk of death by suicide by 300%. Limiting access to firearms, such as with lock boxes in the home, age restrictions for firearm purchases, and background checks, are critical measures to decreasing suicide risk.
- Mental illness is not a predictor of violence or violent behavior. In fact, the majority of violent acts are committed by individuals who are not diagnosed with a mental illness. It is stigmatizing to individuals with mental disorders, particularly severe mental illness, to unfoundedly label gun violence perpetrators as mentally ill. Negative public perceptions of those with mental illness perpetuate falsehoods that behavioral disorders are not common and not treatable.
- Gun violence and mass shootings cause stress, particularly amongst marginalized communities. According to the American Psychological Association, 44% of Hispanic adults and 43% of African American adults report they do not know how to cope with the stress they feel as a result of a mass shooting (compared with 30% of their white counterparts).
Crisis Text Line is here to support. Our collective vision of a more empathetic world has never been more urgent. This is why we’re here—to build the empathy movement the world needs.
For tips on coping with gun violence, visit this page. Text HOME to 741741 to reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor for free, 24/7.
The Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision on the reversal of Roe v. Wade, which established the precedent of abortion rights on a national level in 1973, can trigger trauma, stress, anxiety, and worry among many Americans. How this decision will impact the physical and mental health of women and that of their families will ultimately depend on state regulations impacting differential access to healthcare. At Crisis Text Line, we meet people where they are, supporting and showing empathy to all texters, no matter their circumstances or beliefs.
In 2021 alone, Crisis Text Line engaged in nearly 1.3 million conversations and de-escalated over 17,000 conversations with people who reached out indicating they were in imminent danger of ending their lives or harming someone else. Additionally, since our founding in 2013, we have fielded over 16,000 conversations about crises that referenced the word “abortion” and the top issues mentioned in these conversations were:
- Relationships (49% of conversations)
- Depression/sadness (39% of conversations)
- Anxiety/stress (35% of conversations)
- Isolation/loneliness (22% of conversations)
- Grief/bereavement (19% of conversations)
Restrictions on reproductive healthcare access, including abortion, can be distressing for women and have shown to cause increased mental health challenges. These challenges, including intimate partner violence, can disproportionately impact young women and under-resourced communities. While this is a deeply personal issue, presenting the research and identifying the threats to women’s safety and wellbeing can help inform debates on abortion access, reproductive health, and mental health.
- Research has found that the stress associated with reproductive health can intensify anxiety and other mental health symptoms during pregnancy. The Turnaway Study, which looked at mental health outcomes of unwanted pregnancies, found that those who were denied an abortion were more likely to suffer anxiety and experience a loss of self-esteem compared to those who were not denied an abortion. They were also more likely to face long-term financial hardships and physical health problems.
- Those who were denied an abortion were also more likely to stay with abusive partners compared to those who were able to obtain an abortion. The American Psychological Association suggests a clear relationship between unwanted pregnancies and intimate partner violence. Similarly, those who seek Crisis Text Line support to discuss pregnancy bring up physical and emotional abuse more often than the average texter.
- The negative impact of abortion bans on mental health is compounded when multiple barriers exist, such as travel, limited clinic options, financial issues, and state or clinic restrictions. People already impacted by poverty, lack of health care access, and racism in the health care system will be disproportionately affected by abortion bans.
- Due to the polarized conversation around reproductive rights, abortions are associated with fear of social judgment, self-judgment, and a need for secrecy, which is associated with increased psychological distress and social isolation, based on a systematic literature review on abortion stigma. This perceived stigma was found to be associated with thought suppression, intrusive thoughts, and psychological distress.
Crisis Text Line is here to support anyone in their moment of crisis. Our collective vision of a more empathetic world has never been more urgent. Text HOME to 741741 to reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor for free, 24/7.
For more information on Crisis Text Line’s Public Policy work, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.