Crisis Text Line was born in 2013 when DoSomething.org executives realized every time they sent out requests to mobilize young people to volunteer, they consistently received texts from kids in crisis asking for help. The need was so great, Crisis Text Line became its own entity, one that now has a global reach. Those in crisis need merely text HOME to 741741 (in the US), 686868 (Canada) or 85258 (UK).
Crisis Text Line, which offers 24/7 support via text, isn’t just for kids. “If it’s a crisis to you, we’re here for you,“ Ashley Womble, Crisis Text Line’s head of communications tells Parentology.
Trained counselors are available to talk texters through the most intimate of crises. Counselors deal with everything from eating disorders, bullying and substance abuse to sexual abuse and suicidal thoughts.
Why Crisis Text Line evolved into its own entity? Texting, especially for younger people, is a primary form of communication. Indeed, Womble says 75% of Crisis Text Line’s users are under 25. Often, this is due to a level of comfort texting brings them, especially when addressing intimate situations. “Depression, relationships, school, anxiety, and suicide are our biggest issues,” Womble says.
Texting also allows kids to be blunt and get to the point, and Crisis Text Line counselors are at the ready to receive hard facts. Womble says while the line is confidential, it’s not anonymous, “In rare cases, we may need to contact emergency services on your behalf.”
Data from texts has been collected over the course of Crisis Text Line’s existence and used to develop algorithms. These algorithms identify keywords in a text and prompt counselors with pertinent questions to help take the texter from a “hot moment to cool moment.”
The algorithm can also help the counselor identify local resources that might help the texter. If a texter is suffering from substance abuse, the system can identify treatment centers near the texter’s location. The algorithm can also classify texts by severity. When words within a text indicate suicidal ideation, that text is coded orange and elevated to the top of the queue.
When a counselor identifies a dangerous situation there’s also a specific protocol, “If we believe a texter is experiencing child abuse, or if they are in imminent risk of suicide, our protocol is to contact local authorities. This decision is always made by a masters-level clinician,” Womble says.
Crisis Text Line has also made it possible for people who want to make a difference to volunteer. “Volunteers must complete a background check, have two references, and complete a 35-hour online training course,” Womble says. “The training covers skills such as active listening, collaborative problem-solving, and risk assessment. You’re also assigned a coach who guides you through training and provides continuing support while you are a Crisis Counselor.”
With Crisis Text Line answering about 5,000 texts a day from around the world, counselors are definitely needed. And providing a confidential way to express personal situations that may feel overwhelming and too tough for kids to talk about can literally be a lifesaver.
Users can text “HOME” to 741741 in the US, 686868 in Canada or 85258 in the UK.