CHARLESTON—Stress and anxiety have skyrocketed since the coronavirus crisis began, striking people in every segment of society as they deal with everything from health concerns and job loss to the challenges of home-schooling children and the loneliness of social isolation.
Thanks to a new stress management ministry launched this week by Catholic Charities of South Carolina, help for many is now only a text message away.
People in the Diocese of Charleston now have access to Sister Hope, a technology-based platform that offers support, encouragement and suggestions about good mental health practices. Sister Hope’s assistance is available to anyone with access to a phone that can send and receive text messages.
Those who reach out to Sister Hope will interact with a text-based “chatbot” that provides on-demand emotional and spiritual support in response to provided information.
“The service is meant to help with everyday stress and to offer people best strategies to work through it,” said James Kaiser, diocesan director of social ministry and executive director of Catholic Charities. “It offers people self-help tools for dealing with mild stress and mild anxiety through a chat-based format.”
Sister Hope’s responses are based on information provided by pastoral ministry professionals and clinical psychologists, which allows the program to offer ideas and strategies for helping users overcome a wide range of concerns brought on by COVID-19 and other daily stressors.
The program was developed by X2AI, a California-based technology company.
It has been adopted in other dioceses around the country and around the world, and so far has reached about 13 million clients worldwide, ranging from mothers in Africa to Syrian refugees.
Studies of the technology have shown that with its help, people learn to cope with everyday challenges in as little as two weeks. Company statistics say Sister Hope was found to reduce symptoms of mild depression by 28%, and mild anxiety and stress by 18%.
Users can also take comfort in knowing that Sister Hope is completely anonymous and the service is free of charge.
Kaiser said efforts to bring Sister Hope to South Carolina have been underway for several months, and it just happened that the launch coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s even more relevant now than it was before because day-to-day stress that people experience is obviously aggravated now because of working from home, home-schooling and the general pandemic situation as a whole,” he said.
Catholic Charities staff have started providing information about Sister Hope to their food pantry clients around the state. Information is also available on the agency’s website. For more information, visit www.charitiessc.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To try the program, text “hi” to Sister Hope at 315-276-3157 to get instant support or visit facebook.com/SisterHopeSC.