When someone considers suicide, every second count, back in 2013, Stephanie Shih and Nancy Lublin formed the Crisis Text Line, a nonprofit 24/7 intervention hotline. Sometimes known as the suicide text line, this line of communication can help save countless lives.
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What’s the Crisis Text Line?
The Crisis Text Line (or CTL) traces its history back to DoSomething.org. Shih was an employee there, and Lublin is the current CEO. They were galvanized into founding CTL after receiving a heart-wrenching message during a routine, text-based announcement.
Shih was on the receiving end of a text that said, “He won’t stop raping me.” She brought the text to Lublin, and, after some brainstorming, the two decided to form CTL. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Benefits of Texting
Initially, the idea of “text message therapy” or “texting therapy” can be strange. However, today, countless mental health apps and online outlets offer these types of therapy sessions. Having the opportunity to text a therapist 24/7 can be life-saving to many struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, or any other mental health illness.
Here are some of the benefits of using texting as opposed to face-to-face counseling:
- People are more likely to disclose sensitive information via text messages than in voice interviews
- People hold themselves more accountability when something is in writing
- The opportunity to communicate a feeling or point more accurately
- Texting offers more anonymity than calls or video conferences
- The chance to go back and check therapeutic messages after the termination of counseling
How the Texting Crisis Text Line Helps
In the US alone, the CTL says they can save nearly 45,000 lives every year. Around the world, that number gets closer to 800,000 lives. Since its launch in August 2013, the CTL has engaged in almost 5 million conversations. Nearly 40% of their conversations were about relationship issues, 36% about depression, and a whopping 20% about suicide.
They offer instant access to trained crisis counselors. Each counselor goes a 30-hour training program that explores active listening skills, self-harm, suicide, bullying, depression, and LGBTQ+ issues. Individuals undergoing training have the support of a crisis counselor coach.
Counselors are trained to ask open-ended questions, validate emotions/experiences, practice empathy, and point out various positive attributes. They’re discouraged from asking questions involving “why,” using overly formal language and jumping to conclusions about a texter’s sex or sexuality.
They’re can help someone navigate through a rough patch and escalate a hot moment to a cool, calm mindset.
The Data Insight
One of the most significant elements of CTL is the use of data. For example, they can see that Montana is one of the US states with more suicide crises. Or that at 10 pm is when most texters in the US experience thoughts of suicide.
“The organization is working on predictive analysis, which would allow counselors to determine with a high degree of accuracy whether a texter from a particular area, writing in at a particular time, using particular words, was, say, high on methamphetamine or the victim of sex trafficking.”
These are some of the essential differences texting therapy can provide. When we can combine technology, accessibility, and professional support, it’s incredible what we can do to help someone. In the world of evidence-based mental health therapies, this level of information gathering is invaluable.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, text “HOME” to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor. Or call the national suicide prevention lifeline that’s also available 24 hours a day and seven days a week, to offer confidential support, medical advice, and direct you to a crisis center near you.