Crisis Text Line 741741

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Crisis Text Line in the U.S. and Canada text "SOS" to 741741 plus up to 160 characters
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Comments Regarding the new 988 Crisis Phone, Text and Chat Lines
Editor's note: The implementation of 988 over the first nine months has been difficult for much of rural America. (1) Congress left full funding up to the States, (2) Rural and Remote counties lacked infrastructure: (No ICU Safe beds in the county, limited Behavioral Health practitioners, no Crisis Response team, limited Behavioral Health and often medical health services in county schools); (3) Few if any trained Crisis line counselors except possibly 911 dispatch, and little or no experience with crisis text lines, the method most youth use today during crisis, and lack of knowledge of emojis they often use when describing the level of crisis they are in; and (4) crisis line counselors not understanding appropriate protocol when working with LGBTQ2AI+ youth who haven't come out to their parents or guardians.
Please visit to remain better informed. - Editor, Gordon Clay

Disclaimer - Information is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services and does not serve as a crisis response or hotline. Local crisis hotline phone, text and chat numbers can be found in the front of your local phone book, on our partial lists of emergency numbers or by calling 911. Any medical decisions should be made in conjunction with your physician or psychiatrist. We will not be liable for any complications, injuries or other medical accidents arising from or in connection with, the use of or reliance upon any information on this web site.

Saving Lives via Text Message - NPR

The crisis intervention service provides free, around-the-clock support to people who are struggling with issues such as self-harm or suicidal thoughts. By analyzing text message data, Crisis Text Line researchers have identified the words most associated with suicide risk and helped ensure that messages from the highest-risk users get answered first. Data have also revealed user trends, showing that the majority of texters are female and under age 25. Users also tend to be from rural and low-income demographics, and to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. According to founder Nancy Lublin, while Crisis Text Line counselors are not equipped to offer ongoing therapy, the support and referrals that they provide can make a lasting difference in a user's life. "Many of these things, it's a hot moment where you can be tipped to a healthy decision or an unhealthy decision," she said.

Happy 10th Birthday Crisis Text Line - 8/1/23

Seven years ago today the Crisis Text Line launched quietly in Chicago. And then on Sept 1st in El Paso. Only 4 months later we were in all 295 area codes in the USA. Crisis Text Line was built from the ground up around technology and data with the goal of helping people thrive. They’ve collected one of the largest health data sets in the world. It’s the only real-time data set of this size in the United States. And it is incredibly diverse–recognizing voices of various genders, ages, races, and ethnicities, etc

In the first five years they processed almost 129 million messages (as of January 1. 2020.) And handled more than 25.4K texters in crisis (August, 2013-January 1, 2020 including 793 suicide deesculations and 510 active rescues in Oregon. Our team has grown to nearly 100 full-time people and over 4k active Crisis Counselors. As of August 1, 2019, they had processed over 104 million messages. As of 10/8/19 - 120 million messages. As of August 27, 2020 142 million messages. Revised tracking to show the number of texters which was 6,015,843 on 7/1/21 and 6,420,074 on October 30, 2021..
Source: Crisis Text Line

Secrets No More - We would like you to check this out and participate if you can.
What is a TCall?

How does it work in Oregon
Demographic data for Oregon Texters - 2020
Crisis Text Line Actions by State - 2020
Oregon Trends - Updated monthly

Extra Benefits

Happy Together: Humans And Algorithms As A Perfect Team

What does "SOS" mean?
Lethal Words
Latest News - "CTL is the largest mental health data set that's ever been collected, stored and analyized."

Crisis Text Line Brings Help to Troubled Teens Where They Live — Their Phones
Crisis Texters Data by State
Where we are: Canada - 686868; UK - 85258 - England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Where we are going:
Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Latin America

What is it?
The Five Biggest Myths About Crisis Text Line
What is its origin?
How does it work?
Who should text in?
How are we serving the Hispanic population
Data Philosophy
About us
Our principles
Active Rescues
SOS via SMS: Help for suicidal teens is a text message away
Crisis Text Line Topics
Day of Week, Time of Day and topic coverage reports
100 Million Messages in Five and One-Half Years - Produce 100 Fun Facts
Thirteen Reasons Why We're Here For You
Characteristics of Crisis Line Users Who Died by Suicide
The Trevor Project
Can an Algorithm Prevent Suicide? 11/23/20
R U There?  The New Yorker
Latest News - "CTL is the largest mental health data set that's ever been collected, stored and analyized."

Crisis Text Line: Saving Lives Through Data
Supporting someone in crisis is different over text. Here are some practical tips from our friends at the Crisis Text Line
Always Ask - “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
Crisis Texters Data by State
Flash - Monthy news up-dates from Crisis Text Line. Latest 8/28/17
Crisis Text Line Brings Help to Troubled Teens Where They Live — Their Phones
In the world’s hub of innovation, crisis support catches up with the times fix
SOS via SMS: Help for suicidal teens is a text message away
What Bay Area leaders are saying
The Five Biggest Myths About Crisis Text Line
For Teens in Crisis, the Next Text Could Be a Lifesaver
‘Shoot Me a Text:’ Why Millennials Prefer Text Over Talk
R U There? - New Yorker
Why Aren’t More Crisis Hotlines Offering Chat-Based Help? - The Atlantic
This text line is helping teens talk about mental health without saying a word
This text-message hotline can predict your risk of depression or stress - Business Insider
Tech’s Biggest Names Are Giving Millions to Crisis Text Line - Wired
Crisis Help Lines Have Been Inundated Following The Election - The Huffington Post
Pride in Mental Health: An Interview With The Trevor Project And Crisis Text Line

Related stories: USA Today , Huffington Post, The Semicolon Tattoo Project Facebook , Newburg Oregon Girl Got A Clever Tattoo To Get The Conversation Going About Depression,
Resources: School Tool Kit, Songs about Suicide and Suicide Prevention
Related topics:
Are you feeling suicidal? Attempts, Crisis Text Line, Crisis Trends, Contagion/Clustering, Depression, Emergency Phone/Chat/Text Numbers, Facebook Live , Guns, How to Help, How to talk with your kids about suicide, Mental Illness, Need to Talk?, Online Depression Screening Test , Oregon Suicides 1990 to date, Prevention, Religion, Safety Plan, Secrets No More, 741741, Semicolon Campaign, Stigma, Struggling Teen, Suicide, Suicide Internationally, Suicide Notes, Suicide Resources, Suicide 10-14 Year-Olds, Teen Depression, Teen Suicide, 3-Day Rule, 13 Reasons Why', Veterans, Warning Signs

Statistics show that.."Only 5% of teens are willing to call phone crisis lines, but they'll text a hotline.
Text "SOS" to
741741 to connect 24/7 with a crisis counselor anonymously. 24/7/366.


Must See
TED Talks - Crisis Next Line - Founder
Strangers helping strangers via Text
Mostly Human
Silicon Valley's secret
Help Is Just A Text Away - Hopeline PSA
If You Only Knew What You Left Behind
Crisis Text Line helps reach teens in trouble
Crisis Text Line: Strangers Helping Strangers via Tex
Crisis Help: Just a Text Away
Crisis Text Line - A free, 24/7 text line for people in crisis
What to expect when you call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Can texting save lives? - Must see video!

Logic ft. Alessia Cara & Khalid Perform "1-800-273-8255”
VMA's/MTV 2017
The 60th GRAMMYs
Logic and Alessia Explain the Importance of Their Powerful Hit Song

What is a TCall?

It is a six digit cell phone number, used by people in crisis, to NOT call but text message a 24/7 confidential crisis line.

What does "SOS" mean?

S.O.S became the worldwide standard distress signal (particularly in maritime use) on 1 July 1908, having first been adopted by the German government three years earlier. SOS is the only nine-element signal in Morse code, making it more easily recognizable, as no other symbol uses more than eight elements. It has since entered the awareness of those who are unlikely ever to summon help at sea – appearing in contexts as varied as the title of songs by ABBA, Rihanna, and the Jonas Brothers, and the home renovation TV programme DIY SOS. A more current rendering could be "Signs of Suicide."
Source; Also

Why are we using it beyond the obvious point of being a cry for help?

It has taken on at least two meanings in the Suicide Prevention movement. Signs of Suicide and Survivors of Suicide. Or, pick the one that works for you or come up with your own. Here are some starters. Save Our Selves, Source Of Strength, Save Our Souls, Sign Of Strength, Science Of Survival, Save Our Society, Save Our Survivors, and Signals Of Silence. I'm somewhat drawn to this last one because texting can be a silent cry for help and nobody knows you're doing it.

What is the Crisis Text Line?

Crisis Text Line is a service that troubled teens can use to find help with suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, and other issues via text messaging. The long-term hope was to anonymize and encode these text messages so that researchers and policy-makers could better understand something typically kept private to the individuals.

Following through, the organization recently released a look into their data and a sample of encoded messages.

The visual part of the release shows when text messages typically come in, and you can subset by issue, state, and days. It could use some work, but it’s a good start. Hopefully they keep working on it and release more data as the set grows. It could potentially do a lot of good.

When a young woman texted with a heartbreaking cry for help, the organization responded by opening a nationwide Crisis Text Line for people in pain. Over 20 million text messages later, the organization is using the privacy and power of text messaging to help people handle addiction, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, sexual abuse and more. But there's an even bigger win: The anonymous data collected by text is teaching us when crises are most likely to happen — and helping schools and law enforcement to prepare for them by using technology and data to help save lives.

Statistics show that.."Only 5% of teens are willing to call phone crisis lines, but they're more willing to text. Texting 741741 is a way to text anonymously with a crisis counselor."

Extra Benefits

Both the National Hopeline 800-273-8255 and the Crisis Text Line 741741 take about the same amount of time to locate a trained counselor in the district of the caller/texter, and both are free, 24/7 anonymous., national crisis lines, you get a little bit extra from the Crisis Text Line.

While the computer is locating a trained counselor in the texters district, it is analyzing the text provided by the texter and when the system finds an available counselor, on that counselor's screen is an analysis of the texters text saying something like "42% of the texters who say this are cutters." Or "87% are in severe crisis." Or what ever algorithm the computer says which has over 62,000,000 previous texts. And then, on the screen appears the next best question for the counselor to ask to get the texter from hot to cool calm or contacting 911.

Advantages of 741741 over most other systems:

1. Text base helps people who do not speak or have a hard time talking about something or are in a situation where it's not safe to talk like a domestic violence situation or bullying in the cafeteria or on the school bus. The texter can look like they're just playing on their cell phone.

2. Provides responses that are current, including the 400 texts that have come in nationally during their texting. These algorithms have proven to provide more accurate information than a psychiatrist or psychologist much less a regularly trained advocate with limited professional training.

3. Gleaning information from nearly 7 million texters conversation, certain words have shown to be a more lethal indicator than the word suicide. Comparing this to a counselor who doesn't have AI support, it also analyze the impact of emoji's that are part of youth speak and a number of those represent a much more lethal situation than the word suicide. CTL Counselors know this and use it as an aid in their concealing effort to take someone from hot to cool or more accurately predict the need for an Active Rescue.

4. The texter might have a panic attack or black out during the session and not remember everything that was said to them. They can actually go back through their text and see exactly what the counselor has recommended including resources.

5. The number is easy to remember

Some Recent History

In December 2015, Crisis Text Line made headlines by releasing data that implied that bullying and harassment against Muslims was on the rise. "These political scare tactics have real implications on everyday Americans."

Crisis Text Line experienced a noteworthy increase in volume immediately after Donald Trump's election as President of the United States. Specifically, the data revealed that "election" and "scared" were the words that over indexed most in the days after the election, and that the word "scared" was most frequently associated with LGBTQ texters.

For recent updates, go here.

Supporting someone in crisis is different over text

Many of us who communicate via text have gotten that message from a friend: whether it says, “I’m feeling lost,” or, “I need help,” or, “I don’t know what to do,” we know what it feels like to receive a message from a friend in some kind of crisis. Reading that kind of message from someone in pain, you may feel concerned, helpless, or even panicked.

What makes supporting someone in crisis feel so different over text, as opposed to a phone call or in person? For one, many of us still think of texting as an informal medium of communication, reserved for lighthearted chats, quick check-ins, or innocent flirtation. For a lot of people, serious subjects and texting just don’t seem to mesh.

The reality is that text is how a lot of us – particularly young people – communicate. Not every serious conversation is going to happen face-to-face. In one survey, 75 percent of millennials preferred texting over talking on the phone! Knowing this, what nuances do you have to be aware of if you find yourself texting with a person in crisis?

At Crisis Text Line , text is our medium of choice. We’re all about meeting people where they already are, so text was a natural choice for our modern era. We’ve learned a lot along the way about how to best use the medium of text to provide support to a person in crisis. For the most part, the same principles apply: avoid giving advice, validate feelings, and, above all, listen.

Here are some of our favorite tips for handling the trickier aspects of text:

Replace silence with reflection. There can be great power in silence when you’re supporting someone in person or over the phone. They can hear you quietly being present. But that’s not an option via text! Instead, use spaces in the conversation to reflect on what the person in crisis has shared with you so far. For instance, you could say, “It seems like you’re feeling like your girlfriend really let you down,” or “It sounds like you’re terrified of going back to school tomorrow.” Reflection tells the person that you’re listening and doing your best to understand.

Don’t be afraid to be direct. When someone you care about may be at risk, it’s important to ask directly if they’re thinking about suicide. If they are, it’s important that they not be alone: if you can’t go to them, find out if another friend or family member can. Continue texting with them until someone can be with them.

Find balance in your timing. Unlike when you’re speaking to someone, texting gives you some time to think and revise before sending your reply. You can certainly use that to your advantage, but you also don’t want to leave your friend waiting. Avoid overthinking your responses to the point that too much time goes by: remember that just being there is the most valuable thing you can do.

Tone can be tricky! At Crisis Text Line, we spend a lot of time training our Crisis Counselors to build rapport with texters: for example, by being mindful of using the texter’s name in a way that shows they’re there for them: (“Chris, it means a lot that you were able to open up so much today.”) Of course, if you’re supporting a close friend, rapport isn’t an issue. Even so, conveying the right tone can be hard. Be thoughtful about how your punctuation and grammar are being read. Ask yourself things like: ‘Would this seem friendlier if I used contractions?’ or, ‘Does that exclamation point seem sarcastic?’

Privacy. We take texter privacy seriously, and follow the strictest standards for keeping conversations confidential. Likewise, be mindful of who can see your phone when you’re texting with a friend in crisis. It’s just the right thing to do.

While it may seem like this sort of delicate, personal conversation would be more natural to have over the phone or in person, the fact is that for a lot of people experiencing a mental health crisis, saying the words out loud – that they need help, or that they’re thinking of killing themselves – can feel intimidating, or even impossible. For many, texting makes it easier to reach out.

Texting with someone in crisis offers its own unique challenges and opportunities. Keep these tips in mind, and just remember: the important thing is to have the conversation.

For more general pointers on helping a friend in crisis, see AFSP’s “When Someone is at Riskresource.

You can text SOS to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7.

How does the Crises Text Line work?

You text 741741 when in crisis. Anywhere, anytime.

A live, trained crisis counselor receives the text and responds.

The crisis counselor helps you move from a hot moment to a cool calm to stay safe and healthy using effective active listening and suggested referrals – all through text message using CTL’s secure platform.

Who should text in?

A: We exist to help anyone in crisis any time.

The Crisis Text Hotline also notes in its FAQ section that all text messages are anonymous and free, although charges may apply with carriers other than AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or Verizon.

In a June 2015 article published by the Chicago Tribune, Nancy Lublin, the CEO of, explained why she founded the Crisis Text Line:

The text message to a staffer read: "He won't stop raping me. He told me not to tell anyone."

Those words quickly made their way to Nancy Lublin, the CEO of the New York City-based youth empowerment group, which runs do-good campaigns by text, like initiatives for gender-neutral bathrooms and sharing tips to prevent texting while driving.

Lublin's staff had received a few messages — concerns about bullying and the like — unrelated to their campaigns, but "that one message stopped me in my tracks," Lublin said. "It was like being punched in the stomach. The first rule of marketing and sales is: Go where demand is. People want this by text. We should be supplying crisis counseling by text."

That week, Lublin started building Crisis Text Line, a national 24/7 text number — 741741 — available to everyone but mostly used by teens. It went live two years later in 2013 in Chicago and El Paso, Texas. Chicago was chosen because of the influence of an early funder, the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation. El Paso was a data-driven decision based on its large Latino population.

Within four months, the line had been contacted by cellphones from every area code in America. The organization is expected to surpass 7 million messages by July, and Lublin is now in need of more counselors.

About Us

Your best friend. Your dad. That lady down the street. That quiet kid in school. That loud kid in school. That dude in accounting. Your cousin in Alaska. That hipster in the flannel in Brooklyn. That rando who might lurk online. Crisis Text Line is for everyone.

Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7 support for those in crisis. Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.

Crisis Text Line trains volunteers (like you!) to support people in crisis. With 62 million messages processed to date, we’re growing quickly, but so is the need. Apply to be a crisis counselor now.

Our principles

We fight for the texter. Our first priority is helping people move from a hot moment to a cool calm, guiding you to create a plan to stay safe and healthy. YOU = our priority.

We believe data science and technology make us faster and more accurate. See our Founder’s TED talk for more scoop on how we’re using this stuff. While we love data science and technology, we don’t think robots make great Crisis Counselors. Instead, we use this stuff to make us faster and more accurate–but every text is viewed by a human.

We believe in open collaboration. We share our learnings in newsletters, at conferences and on social media. And, we’ve opened our data to help fuel other people’s work.  


Q: How does the Crisis Text Line work?

A: You text 741741 when in crisis. Available 24/7 in the USA. A live, trained crisis counselor receives the text and responds.

The crisis counselor helps you move from a hot moment to a cool calm to stay safe and healthy using effective active listening and suggested referrals – all through text message using Crisis Text Line’s secure platform.

Q: Who should text in?

A: We exist to help anyone in crisis at any time.

Q: Who answers the text messages?

A: Crisis Text Line crisis counselors are both rigorously trained volunteers and employees of our crisis center partners.

Q: What can I expect when I text in?

A: You’ll receive an automated text asking you what your crisis is. Within minutes, a live trained crisis counselor will answer your text. They will help you out of your moment of crisis and work with you to create a plan to continue to feel better.

Q: Is the Crisis Text Line actually anonymous?

A: Yes. Crisis counselors only know what texters share with them, and that information stays confidential. We take your anonymity seriously. Check out our terms of service here .

Q: How much does the Crisis Text Line cost?

A: We do not charge texters. If your cell phone plan is with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or Verizon, texts to our short code, 741741 are free of charge. If you have a plan with a different carrier, standard text message rates apply.

Q: Will the Crisis Text Line show up on my cell phone bill?

A: Nothing will appear on your bill if your cell phone plan is with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or Verizon. If your plan is with another carrier our short code, 741741 will appear on your billing statement.

Q: Will the Crisis Text Line work with my phone?

A: The Crisis Text Line works on all major US carriers, and most minor regional carriers. However, shortcodes (like 741741) are not allowed on many prepaid plans like T-Mobile’s.

Q: I had a great experience when I texted in. Can I text in again?

A: You can text in again, if you are experiencing a crisis. However, you should not feel dependent on us. The Crisis Text Line is not a replacement for long-term counseling, in-person therapy, or a friend.

Q: How long do I have to wait to text with a crisis counselor?

A: Our goal is to respond to every texter in under 5 minutes. During high volume times, such as at night or when people are talking about us on social media, wait times may be longer.

Q: Is there a character limit when texting the Crisis Text Line?

A: Yes, our system is only able to process 140 characters in one message.

Q: Why am I receiving an error message or no response at all?

Sadly, there are some carriers who have not adopted the use of shortcodes–and the small percentage of people with these phones, can’t use the Crisis Text Line. (We hear that sometimes you get an auto-error response. Sometimes nothing at all. We know this is shitty and we wish those carriers would enable us). If your phone carrier doesn’t enable shortcodes, here is a list of hotlines you can call.

Q: Is there any other way to reach the Crisis Text Line besides text?

A: Yes, you can reach us through Facebook Messenger. Access to message Crisis Text Line is located through Facebook’s Safety checkpoint. This is accessible by flagging a user’s post.

Q: If I reach out via Facebook Messenger, does anonymity apply?

A: Yes. We do not have access to your Facebook profile. The only information about you that we’ll know is what you share with us.

Q: If I reach out via Facebook Messenger, who has access to the data?

A: Three parties: you (in your Messenger thread), the Crisis Text Line, and Facebook.

Q: If I reach out via Facebook Messenger and I want my data deleted, what do I do?

A: Message us back with the word ‘LOOFAH’. We’ll scrub your data from our system, and make a request to Facebook to do the same.

Q: If I reach out via Facebook Messenger, which terms of service apply to me?

A: By contacting the Crisis Text Line through Facebook Messenger, users agree to Facebook Messenger’s Terms of Service, as well as the Crisis Text Line’s Terms of Service.

Q: Is Crisis Text Line counseling?

A: No, our specialists do not counsel, but rather practice active listening to help texters move from a hot moment to a cool calm.

Q: What is active listening?

A: Active listening is when someone communicates in a way that is empathetic, understanding, and respectful. It includes focus on the texter and thoughtful answers.

Q: What's the difference between Crisis Text Line and therapy?

A: Crisis Text Line is not a replacement for therapy. Therapy includes a diagnosis made by a doctor, a treatment plan of action, and a patient/therapist relationship. Crisis Text Line helps people in moments of crisis. Our crisis counselors practice active listening to help our texters find calm and create an action plan for themselves to continue to feel better. Crisis Text Line’s crisis counselors are not therapists.

Q: What are all of the crisis issues you track? Can you add more?

A: See the issues we track at . If you’re a researcher or practitioner with interest in another issue, submit your suggestion in the form at the bottom of

Q: Who can apply for access to the Crisis Text Line's data?

A: Data access is available to approved academic researchers. Please visit to see the latest trends in how texters are experiencing crisis.

How are we serving the Hispanic population, particularly because we don’t (yet) offer the service in Spanish? While we only receive a handful of conversations in Spanish, we do receive a lot of volume from Hispanic texters: they make up ~15% of our texter population. Here are some quick facts about Crisis Text Line texters who identify as Hispanic:


Gender. (No difference.) Hispanic texters are slightly more likely to identify as female (74% vs. 73%) AND male (17% vs. 15%). More interestingly, Hispanic texters are less likely to identify as another gender such as Agender or Genderqueer, vs. other texters (9% vs. 12%, or ¼ lower).

Age. (Wow!) 55% of our Hispanic texters identify as 17 or younger, vs. 46% of other texters.


Hispanic texters love us. Conversation quality is 2.5% higher for conversations with Hispanic texters vs. other texters. So, even though we’re English-only, our Hispanic texters are digging our service!

Hispanic texters really share with us! 72% of Hispanic texters share something for the first time, vs. 66% of other texters.

100 Million Messages in Five and One-Half Years - Produce 100 Fun Facts

In honor of all this amazingness, we’ve rounded up 100 fun facts, interesting stats, and impactful data.

  • 741741 makes a straight line up the left side of the keypad. We wanted our number to be as easy as possible to remember and type.
  • Back when we launched in 2013, we took 3,000 conversations during our first month. Today, we handle more than 3,000 conversations every day.
  • We spent five and a half years getting to 100 million messages. We project that it will take 11 months to process the next 100 million.
  • Our texters are some of the poorest people in America. We know this because 20% of our volume comes from areas with the lowest per capita income in the country.
  • In 2018, our Crisis Counselors spent 412,425 hours helping people in crisis. That’s $10,182,773 worth of time, according to the Independent Sector value of a volunteer hour.
  • We’re helping a lot of Native Americans and Native Alaskans. Nearly 6% of our texters identify this way—although only 1.5% of America identifies as Native American/Native Alaskan.
  • We “Always Ask.” This policy encourages Crisis Counselors to ask texters about suicidal thoughts and ideation, even if that’s not why they texted in. Our data inspired this change...and it actually improved texter-reported satisfaction!
  • We over-index almost seven times the national population on trans texters, based on numbers from the Williams Institute at UCLA. They say that about 0.6% of adults identify as trans and ~4% of our texters identify that way.
  • In December 2018, we had over 100,000 conversations in one month. It was our biggest month to date, thanks to some nice things said about us on social media.
  • Our proprietary algorithms allow us to predict the severity of a texter based on machine learning analysis. This means we take high risk texters in in under five minutes, even in high volume times. Learn more from its creator’s blog post.
  • Thanks to our texter triage algorithm, we learned that words like “Ibuprofen,” “Tylenol,” and “bridge” are four times more likely to lead to high-risk conversations than “suicide” or “shooting.”
  • Texters under the age of 18 are more likely to be people of color.
  • We have one of the largest real-time mental health data sets in the world. We share aggregated and anonymized data at Crisis Trends. This allows for researchers, journalists, and everyday people to learn and change.
  • Our data shows that conversations about suicide peak Sunday nights and are at the lowest on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • We’re expecting ten academic papers to go out in the next 18 months, all from data fellows and partner institutions that have been utilizing our data corpus.
  • Both floors of our office have feedback from our texters painted on the walls. We get off the elevators and are reminded of why we work here.
  • The number one conversation topic we see is Depression/Sadness. Relationships are a close second.
  • Sixty-five percent of texters tell our Crisis Counselors something that they’ve never told anyone else before.
  • We received our first international text at 5 pm local time in Manitoba, Canada on February 15th, 2018. Our amazing partner running Crisis Text Line in Canada is the org Kids Help Phone.
  • During 2018, 30% of our daily convos came during between 10 pm and 2 am.
  • If you haven’t already heard about the text that inspired it all, stop what you are doing, and watch Nancy’s Ted Talk.
  • Our office has a Harry Potter theme. The conference rooms are named after Hogwarts Houses, and even our bathrooms have great names. Our favorite? Moaning Myrtle, which is one of the bathrooms. (There is even a phone booth called Shrieking Shack.)
  • In June 2016, we created an International team. By the end of 2021, we’re hoping to have affiliates in 15 countries.
  • Our texters age 13 and under are more likely to be of color and identify as LGBTQ+.
  • From July 2015 to July 2016, Crisis Text Line grew the staff, from 17 to 48. We’re about to break 100! (That’s right, there are only 100 full-time staff running this whole operation.)
  • The Golden Gate Bridge, which has been a hotspot for suicide attempts, was one of our first West Coast partners. We have handled more than 400 conversations with texters using the keyword GGB to 741741.
  • Texters from Kentucky, South Carolina, and West Virginia are the most likely to text us about issues with gender or sexual identity.
  • Our platform is integrated directly into the Crisis Text Line Facebook page. People in crisis can reach our Crisis Counselors directly by messaging our Facebook page. This helps us further our mission of meeting people where they are, which is often on social media.
  • Forty percent of our current full-time staff started out as Crisis Counselors. Did we mention that we're hiring?
  • We see the highest number of conversations about bullying on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
  • Texters age 65+ are twice as likely to text us about grief.
  • Texters contacting us through Facebook are almost 2X more likely to be over the age of 55.
  • After being accepted, volunteers are assigned a Coach who helps them through training and when they become a Crisis Counselor assists them with any off-platform questions.
  • More than 30% of our conversations about eating and body image come at the beginning of the week.
  • We get the most texts from active military/veteran texters in August and September, which is smack dab in the middle of permanent change of station season when a lot of military families are moving.
  • Texters over 25 tend to reach out early in the morning rather than late at night. The opposite is true for texters under 25.
  • Pizza Tracker (yes, it was inspired by the Domino’s pizza tracker) launched in May 2017. This product allows Crisis Counselor and Supervisors to see the progress of an active rescue.
  • Native American texters are 50% more likely than our general population to text us about Gender/Sexual Identity and Self Harm.
  • Community is important to us. That’s why we created a Mighty Network forum just for our Crisis Counselors. The most popular threads are self care tips and photos of pets.
  • Do you stay up late during the summer? We do too - we see the most overnight texts during July and August.
  • Our texters feel the loneliest on Sunday and Monday nights. The loneliest states? Florida and Mississippi.
  • is a spin-off from Crisis Text Line! takes our training insights and data to build products that will help the world’s biggest companies become more empathetic. It’s named after the Loris, a slow-moving animal with a deadly bite (just like how handling conversations badly can be deadly to your company)
  • Conversations mentioning social media are 3x more likely to be from a texter who is worried about another person.
  • Texters contacting us during lunch time are more likely to be between 25-54.
  • Only 20% of our conversations with texters who are thinking about suicide actually end up in an active rescue. That means four out of five times, our Crisis Counselors are able to help texters come up with a safety plan.
  • We have the most Black/African-American texters from Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, and Maryland. (Overall, ~12% of our texters identify as Black/African-American.)
  • In the next 18 months, we will launch in: Ireland, Australia, and South Africa. Are you an entrepreneur who is looking to change the mental health game in your country? Email
  • We tend to have more conversations about school during the week.
  • Texters age 65+ are more likely to be male, straight, and Middle Eastern.
  • College age texters contact us most during April, right in the middle of midterms’ and finals’ season.
  • Our texters age 13 and under are three times as likely to text us about bullying and twice as likely to text us about gender and sexual identity.
  • data mirrors the national conversation, especially regarding substance abuse in the Midwest. Six out of the ten states that talk the most about substance abuse are in the Midwest.
  • Texters tend to be slightly older during the summer. Our over age 18 texters increase by four percentage points in the summer.
  • Our service isn’t only for people struggling with suicide. Suicide isn’t even in our top three issues. (The top three issues are depression, relationships, and anxiety….suicide is fourth.)
  • We get the most military and veteran texters from South Carolina, Hawaii, and Alabama.
  • Almost one in five of our conversations include some discussion of parenting. Those convos tend to peak in the summer when kids are home from school (Guess everyone has a rough time sharing one roof).
  • Texters during the winter text us less about suicidal thoughts, slightly higher numbers of conversations about anxiety and depression.
  • During the November 2016 election night, we were swamped with 4X our average volume. The biggest surge we saw came from issues including LGBTQ+, sexual assault, and immigration.
  • Even though we had a big spike in volume during the 2016 election night, the average wait time for a high-risk texter that night was 39 seconds.
  • During our big social media spike in December 2018, we had 10X average number of conversations from Puerto Rico.
  • Parents contacting us are 2.7X more likely to talk about finances. (No parent we have shared this fact with has ever expressed surprise by this.)
  • Male texters are 2.5X more likely to text about gender and sexual identity issues.
  • Texters above the age of 55 are twice as likely to be veterans.
  • One in five texters over the age of 55 is texting us about loneliness/isolation.
  • Our oldest Crisis Counselor is 84 years old. (We love our older Crisis Counselors!)
  • The most common female name for our Crisis Counselors is Sarah. We have 374 Sarahs. (and 132 that don’t use an h at the end!)
  • And the most common male name is Michael. We have 129 Michaels.
  • Washington is home to the nicest people on earth. How is that a fact? It has the highest concentration of Crisis Counselors per capita.
  • We’ve trained almost 20,000 Crisis Counselors! Ready to join? Learn more about how to become an empathy MVP with us.
  • Our Crisis Counselors favorite type of dessert is Pumpkin Pie. (Yes, we asked.)
  • Winter is NOT the worst time for suicidal ideation. We actually see the most conversations about suicidal thoughts in the spring.
  • Our founder and CEO (Nancy) is a huuuuge Hello Kitty fan. Her collection decorates the wall of one of our conference rooms.
  • When a new product launches, we bang a giant gong in the office. We also have a meeting to celebrate everyone who has worked on it.
  • We see our highest rates of Native American texters from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Montana, and South Dakota.
  • Texters 55+ are more than twice as likely to text us out of concern for someone else. Looks like older and wiser is definitely a thing.
  • Crisis Text Line’s brand color is Pantone Color 185C. Or hex code #eb4014 if that’s more your style. Otherwise known as “red.”
  • In August 2018, Chief Data Scientist Bob Filbin was named a co-founder of the organization.
  • Our staff is located in five hubs: NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, Barcelona, and Durham, North Carolina. (We’re on Google Hangouts a lot.)
  • Conversations coming in through Facebook are 2X as likely to be conversations from texters who are worried about someone else.
  • Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire are the most stressed out states. (Oddly, both our Co-Founders are from New England...and are not surprised by this fact.)
  • We have over 130 active partners on the local, regional, and national level. These partners market our service in their area, and we support their community (and provide data along the way). Sound like a good deal? Check out our keyword partnerships page to learn more.
  • Our Crisis Counselors’ favorite TV shows is “This Is Us.” (We have an office Slack channel dedicated to the show.)
  • Conversations about grief peak during the month of December.
  • Following the Parkland shooting, one of our Crisis Counselors showed up at Marjory Stoneman Douglas to share our service with their students and administration. This led to a partnership with students from Broward County Schools. These students can text FL to 741741.
  • Our staff has Valentine’s Day off because self-love is important! (Yes, the service is still available and people who work on that day are paid holiday pay.)
  • In Canada, Crisis Counselors are called Crisis Responders (They still do the same great work!)
  • Our Puerto Rican texters are much more likely to text us during the day, whereas the continental US texts us at night.
  • In 2018, we worked with five different universities on research studies that will help both our texters and our Crisis Counselors. Interested in working with our data? Check out our Open Data Collaboration program.
  • We have an amazing Board of Directors. Some of our board members include DJ Patil, former Chief Data Scientist of the US, Elizabeth Cutler, founder of SoulCycle, and danah boyd, Principal Researcher at Microsoft.
  • We’re now the second largest distributed network of active volunteers in the world. Bonus fact: The largest is Wikipedia.
  • Texters mentioning social media are more likely to be above age 35. Maybe our younger texters have the secret to using social media in a healthy way?
  • Our original plan was just build the software (SaaS) for existing crisis services. We launched in partnership with mental health centers in three cities. Then our fearless COO at the time (Baylee) and Founding Supervisor (Jen James) looked at the data and trained our own Crisis Counselors who were faster, cheaper, and received higher satisfaction ratings!
  • Holiday blues are not a thing. Despite myths that everyone is crying into their eggnog, we see some of our lowest volume the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • Summertime sadness is a thing. We see a surge from LGBTQ+ texters who may be back home with unaccepting families. Some of the words we see include: lesbian, virginity, and dumped.
  • Following the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris in 2015, we had six times the volume of conversations about harassment and bullying from our Muslim texters.
  • Colorado, Vermont, and Montana have some of the best friends - they’re the states that have the most conversations coming from people who are worried about someone else.
  • We launched in two cities only: Chicago and El Paso. Four months and zero marketing dollars later, we were receiving texts from all 295 area codes. Boom. Organic growth.
  • It’s fake news that young people don’t experience severe crises. Our youngest texters (13 years old and under) text us about self-harm at two times the rest of our population.
  • There’s some major girl power happening here. Eighty percent of our Crisis Counselors are female.
  • Crisis Counselors’ Best Friend? 17% of our Crisis Counselors count on their pets for self-care during or after their shift. (Sounds like a good excuse to get a pet. Just saying.)

And a bonus #101. The amount of gratitude we feel for our Crisis Counselors who made it possible to reach this milestone? INFINITY AND BEYOND! All the love.

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SOS via SMS: Help for suicidal teens is a text message away

With younger generations using cellphones less for actual conversation and more for text messaging, suicide prevention organizations are setting up ways that let distraught youths seek help that way.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers and college-age adults, making a text messaging initiative — started this month by Samaritans Inc. of Massachusetts to supplement the more traditional phone help line — a natural, Executive Director Steve Mongeau said.

Nearly 5,300 U.S. residents younger than 24 took their own lives in 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of Suicidology. The latest suicide report by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health indicates that 90 state residents ages 5 to 24 killed themselves in 2012.

"We want you, as a person in need, to be able to use the communication platform you feel most comfortable with," Mongeau said, adding that Samaritans is the first suicide prevention organization in Massachusetts to offer the texting option.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has offered text help for suicidal veterans for several years.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also offers text messaging help at many of its more than 160 crisis centers nationwide. That organization found that nearly 40 percent of people reaching out for help using its online chat option indicated they would not feel comfortable seeking help by phone.

Young people may not be able to articulate their feelings in a phone conversation, said Dr. Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice president of research at the America Foundation for Suicide Prevention, yet their emotions became crystal clear in a text conversation.

"What we found is that parents would look at their children's phones after a suicide and see all the distress their children were experiencing," she said.

The same Samaritans telephone number often seen posted near bridges — 877-870-4673 — can be used for text messages, Mongeau said.

People texting the organization are connected with a volunteer trained in the use of text messaging, and familiar with the grammatical quirks, abbreviations and emoticons used in text messaging. In fact, most of the organization's volunteers are under 30, with some as young as 16, and are already well-versed in text messaging, Mongeau said.

Text messages are also more private, he notes.

"Say you're in a public place, or on a school bus, you can text back and forth without being overheard," he said.

The Samaritans texting service is so far available daily only from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m., the period after school when young people tend to have more time on their hands, Mongeau said. But the goal is to make the program available 24/7.

And of course, anyone who wants to can text, regardless of age.

A few people have already taken advantage of the texting option, Mongeau said, even though the organization is still trying to get the word out. Eventually he expects to engage in as many 300 text conversations per day, or about the same as the number of phone calls the organization receives daily.

"People just want someone to confide in without judgment," he said.

Editor's note: See Crisis Text Line (741741) for a national service established in 2013 that has processed over 32,000,000 texts as of March 13, 2017.

Crisis Text Line Brings Help to Troubled Teens Where They Live — Their Phones

Your teen is in trouble and won’t talk to you. But she’ll text a friend or a counselor. Enter @CrisisTextLine

“I want to die or run away. I can't take my family.”

“I just feel awful... im in the bathroom at my school crying.”

“I have no one to talk to about it. I would like to stop cutting myself.”

An incoming text message that a volunteer mental health counselor at Crisis Text Line responds to during a typical shift might look like this.

Between August 2013, when the free, nonprofit text-messaging-based counseling service launched, and July 12, counselors have exchanged more than 19.8 million messages with people nationwide struggling with depression, bullying, eating disorders, sexual abuse, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and other crises.

Seventy percent of those texting in are teens and young adults, ages 13 to 25, according to the organization — and that number could grow as educators become more aware of the service and the possibilities it holds, especially for cash-strapped schools struggling to keep guidance counselors and social workers on the payroll. (A recent 74 investigation found that four of the top 10 school districts in the country currently employ more security officers than counselors)

It’s simple enough to use the service — just text “Start” to 741-741, and a live, trained counselor, perhaps located thousands of miles away, responds within a few minutes.

Robert Nikc, an assistant principal at Intermediate School 145 in Queens, said a text counseling service like Crisis Text Line could be a tremendous resource for his students, who are more prone to vent about a problem via a text or social media post than they are to initiate a conversation in person.

“(Texting) is something that they are very comfortable using and they don’t have concerns, if you will, about disclosing personal information over that forum to their friends,” Nikc said.

Nikc said he recently learned about the service and plans to present it to his administrative team, which could consider offering it as a resource to students and their families.

The school has nearly 2,000 students in grades six to eight and five full-time school counselors — or one for every 400 students. (The American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of one counselor for every 250 students.) That a text message conversation is readily available during the hours when teachers, counselors and deans are not (nights are high-volume times for Crisis Text Line) makes the service more appealing, Nikc said, although he cautioned it shouldn’t be considered a replacement for one-on-one conversation with an adult.

Starting this year, Crisis Text Line is embarking on a partnership with the popular teen messaging app After School, which has millions of users at more than 20,000 high schools around the country. The app is designed to be inaccessible to the prying eyes of adults — students can post anonymously and they sign up for a school-specific newsfeed by verifying their identity and their school via their Facebook account.

If students post specific words or phrases that alert After School’s human moderators to a potential crisis, the app will send a message asking if the user would like to speak confidentially with a Crisis Text Line counselor. In other cases, threats are flagged by a moderator or the app’s automatic language detection filters, triggering After School to contact local authorities to intervene.

Since the app began offering a counseling service in April 2015, more than 60,000 students have used it, a spokesman said. (The app first partnered with a different service, Instawell, from April to December last year and switched to Crisis Text Line in early 2016.)

Text-based services that cater to children and teens (and their parents) are nothing new. A school in Los Angeles, for one, sends texts to parents with updates on students’ assignments, which boosted homework completion rates by 25 percent, according to The Hechinger Report.

Researchers at the University of Virginia found that when high school seniors were sent text reminders to finish financial aid forms, they were more likely to enroll in a two-year college than those not sent text messages.

But the idea that an app or a text service could end up as the first line of defense for kids who may be at risk for suicide or depression? That has yet to fully catch on with parents and educators.

Executives at both organizations believe that by working together they can speed up that process and improve outreach to youth in crisis and prevent tragedies.

“We know that teenagers don’t want to go talk to their parents, or they don’t want to go to the school counselor and watch everyone watch them walk into the office, so where teens feel most comfortable is on their phones,” said Cory Levy, After School’s co-founder and chief operating officer.

And they will pour their hearts out in 140 characters or less — the per message limit set by Crisis Text — in conversations the service says last 45 minutes to an hour on average. The texter in crisis is using a phone but the counselor is on a computer that allows quick access to helpful information or referrals.

The goal is for the counselor to provide a temporary intervention, guiding the texter from what the organization calls a “hot” moment to a “cool calm” using active listening. Most conversations end with a referral to other services, said Crisis Text Line’s Director of Communications Liz Eddy.

In order to become counselors, volunteers must be 18 years old, complete 34 hours of training, undergo a background check and make it through the interview process. The organization has about 1,500 counselors.

Eventually the organization plans to create an online referral database of mental health services, shelters and counseling centers that can be regularly updated, Eddy said.

Crisis Text Line is preparing to make a trove of data available to approved researchers in an effort to better inform public policy and improve mental health care services. (The organization has headquarters in New York City and was founded by Nancy Lublin, who previously spent 12 years as the chief executive of

Among the data that is publicly available on its site right now:

— States where texters most often seek help for “school problems,” a category used by Crisis Text Line, are South Carolina, Virginia, Illinois and Connecticut.

— Vermont, South Dakota and Mississippi are the top three states for messages exchanged about “bullying.” (This data includes all texters, not just young adults).

— LGBT issues are more prevalent among all texters in Alaska, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

At After School, Levy, 24, and his co-founder, CEO Michael Callahan, 33, hope to draw from that data pool and serve a greater purpose in schools. Their app launched a beta version in 2014 and was quickly downloaded by students at thousands of high schools across the U.S. Just as quickly, it seemed, the app became a magnet for bullying, harassment and even threats of violent attacks at schools, despite its stated intention to be a safe space for positive messaging between teens. It was temporarily removed from the Apple store because of inappropriate content.

The updated version of the app — once again available for download in the Apple store — includes new security features designed to protect its young users. The emergency notification system is part of that, along with 24/7 moderators and enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy toward cyberbullying and threats, the app-makers say.

Levy said they ultimately want to use the data to advise state and local education policymakers about how students in a particular region or district are faring mentally and emotionally

To that end, they’ve talked with educators and administrators in cities like Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami.

“If we know that in Colorado, we get a lot more requests (for the counseling service) than we do in Texas, then maybe we should go talk to the Board of Education in Colorado and tell them that ‘Hey, we’re seeing a problem in your state,’” he said.

Maria Tavella, a middle school counselor at I.S. 141, “The Steinway” school in Queens, said she tacked the 741-741 number to her bulletin board at the beginning of the year and is now going from class to class to explain how Crisis Text Line works.

The school has 1,200 students in sixth to eighth grade and only two counselors, she said.

Tavella said she often encounters students who have plenty of friends but tell her it’s not always safe or reliable to confide in them. The anonymous nature of the service and the understanding that a trained adult is on the other side of the iPhone makes it attractive, she believes.

“Come a weekend, if they can’t reach out to their friends, if they can’t tell their parents about something, it’s nice to know, ‘OK, here’s something else I can trust, here’s someone else I can go to.’”

If you or someone you know needs help, use the Crisis Text Line, 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

In the world’s hub of innovation, crisis support catches up with the times

Whether you’re a local student, a commuter taking the train into work, or a concerned parent, many have been touched by suicides at Caltrain in the Bay Area. Today, Crisis Text Line, the national not-for-profit that provides free, 24/7 crisis support via SMS, launches an array of local partnerships in the Bay Area – including Caltrain.

Caltrain will be adding signage and information to stations urging people to text 741741 for crisis support. Sally Longyear, a Palo Alto parent whose daughter, Sarah Longyear, died by suicide at Caltrain in April, supports Crisis Text Line. “If my daughter had known about Crisis Text Line she might be here today,” said Sally Longyear. “If just one life is saved by adding these signs, it will be worth it.”

In 2013, serial social entrepreneur Nancy Lublin founded Crisis Text Line. Since then, they’ve exchanged over 26 million messages with people in crisis, creating the largest real-time mental health data set. The organization has garnered support from tech giants like Reid Hoffman, Steve Ballmer, Melinda Gates, and the Omidyar Network.


To date, Crisis Text Line has already handled over 25,000 conversations with people in crisis in the Bay Area. Our Bay Area data shows 75% of texters are under 25 years old, and “school” is the #1 location mentioned by suicidal texters. “Mental health stigma continues to be a barrier for individuals and families to seek needed care. As we all know, millions of people use social media, and text message can be a private, accessible way to receive support,” said Barbara Garcia, Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. “Crisis Text Line will improve access to care in times of extreme stress and also help identify trends to enrich our understanding of the population that uses this new intervention.”


Many beloved San Francisco icons are banding together in support of Crisis Text Line’s Bay Area launch. The San Francisco Giants will raise awareness with their fans throughout the 2017 season for Crisis Text Line both in park and through their large social media following to ensure that all fans know where to turn in crisis: 741741. Bay Area based Peet’s Coffee will promote the number in local Peet’s locations and provide free coffee for Crisis Counselor volunteers.

Crisis Text Line Bay Area partners include:

  • City of San Francisco
  • Caltrain
  • Golden Gate Bridge District
  • San Francisco Giants
  • Peet’s Coffee
  • Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety
  • Los Gatos Monte Sereno Police Department
  • Project Safety Net
  • Children’s Health Council
  • Adolescent Counseling Services
  • SafeSpace

These partners are in addition to Crisis Text Line’s national corporate partners based in the Bay Area, including YouTube, Facebook, After School, Twilio, and Speck Products.


Crisis Text Line’s Bay Area efforts are supported by a grant from The Battery’s philanthropic branch, Battery Powered. “Crisis Text Line is a fast-moving, innovative organization that is disrupting the mental health sector,” said Michael Birch, Founder of The Battery. “We were blown away by their data and how it can inform Bay Area policy, parents and schools.”

Crisis Text Line has hired Palo Alto native Libby Craig to lead these efforts. Craig attended Gunn High School during its first suicide cluster in 2009. “I’m honored to grow Crisis Text Line in my home town, where I saw peers die by suicide,” said Craig. “We all know 911 for crime and emergency. I’m hoping 741741 will be known across the Bay Area for mental health crises.”


  • If you’re in crisis, text BAY to 741741 for crisis support in the Bay Area.
  • Become a volunteer Crisis Counselor at
  • To learn how your organization, company, or school can get involved, reach out to Bay Area Director Libby Craig at

About Crisis Text Line

Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7, confidential crisis support via text. Learn more at


What Bay Area leaders are saying:

“Caltrain highly supports suicide prevention and mental health initiatives in this community.” said Tasha Bartholomew, Caltrain Communications Officer. “We believe working with Crisis Text Line will be instrumental in reaching more people in crisis who might be more comfortable using text message.”

“Crisis Text Line fills a need that our teens have been asking for, a safe anonymous text support line designed for teens and young adults.” said Pat Burt, Mayor of Palo Alto. “Having access to the collected data is an additional bonus that will help inform our decisions about how we allocate resources to keep our young people healthy and safe.”

“Crisis Text Line is a powerful tool to help us reach people in crisis, and we’ve added 30 signs on the bridge and in the parking lots with their number,” Priya Clemens, Communications Manager of the Golden Gate Bridge and Transit District. “We’ve already seen the benefits of this partnership, with Crisis Text Line alerting bridge patrol of people considering suicide on their way to or at the bridge.”

“By using an increasingly popular means of communication, this organization is revolutionizing crisis support and providing a needed public service to the Bay Area,” said Michael Spath, Communications Manager, Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety. “Every 911 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) should know about the 24/7, free availability of Crisis Text Line. As public safety agencies nationwide are currently implementing our own ability to process emergency text messages sent to 911, having additional resources available for the texting community will become even more important.”

“Police response to mental health issues and the ability to quickly and appropriately support those in need is an ongoing priority of our department,” said Matt Frisby, Chief of Los Gatos Monte Sereno Police Department. “Our partnership with Crisis Text Line provides yet another avenue to connect with persons in crisis and provide them with the care they deserve.”

“Every student should know about this important resource,” said Jessica Colvin, Wellness Director of Tam Unified School District. “There should be stickers in every bathroom and flyers in every classroom. Students need to enter 741741 into their phones.”


Characteristics of Crisis Line Users Who Died by Suicide

Among Northern Ireland’s crisis line users, receiving check-in calls and using the service for a longer duration may lower the risk of suicide death. These extra supports may be particularly important for users with substance dependence or those who have made a prior suicide attempt.

Researchers used data from Northern Ireland’s Lifeline Client Information Management System to identify 118 of its crisis line users who died by suicide between 2008 and 2014. Comparing this deceased group with the general population of Lifeline users, they found several differences. Over 60% of Lifeline users who died by suicide were men, compared to 42% of general Lifeline users. Over 90% of crisis line users who died by suicide were between the ages of 18 and 54, compared with 64% of Lifeline users generally. Almost two-thirds of the deceased group (64%) presented with suicidal ideation or behaviors on their first call, compared with 27% of the general Lifeline user population. Based on these findings, the researchers used sex, age, and prior suicidal thoughts and behaviors to create a matched comparison group of 118 Lifeline crisis service users who had not died by suicide.

They found that those who reported substance dependence were 4.2 times more likely to die by suicide compared to matched controls. Those who had made a prior suicide attempt were 3.2 times more likely to die by suicide. Lifeline users who had not died by suicide had a longer duration of service use and were more likely to receive check-in services. This research underscores the importance of longer-term engagement and follow-up support for crisis line users, especially for those who report substance dependence or prior suicide attempts.

R U There?

A new counselling service harnesses the power of the text message.

In 2011, a young woman named Stephanie Shih was working in New York City at, a nonprofit that helps young people start volunteer campaigns. Shih was responsible for sending out text messages to teen-agers across the country, alerting them to various altruistic opportunities and encouraging them to become involved in their local communities: running food drives, organizing support groups, getting their cafeterias to recycle more. Silly, prankish responses were not uncommon, but neither were messages of enthusiasm and thanks. Then, in August, after six months on the job, Shih received a message that left her close to tears for the rest of the day. “He won’t stop raping me,” it said. “He told me not to tell anyone.” A few hours later, another message came: “R u there?” Shih wrote back, asking who was doing this. The next day, a response came in: “It’s my dad.” had no protocol for anything like this, so Shih texted back with the contact information for rainn (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network*)*, the country’s largest anti-sexual-assault organization. But the texter indicated that she was too scared to make a phone call. “This is the right thing to do,” Shih insisted. There was no reply. “Not knowing if she was safe or had gotten help or would ever get help consumed my thoughts,” Shih told me last fall. She printed out the text messages and handed them to her boss, Nancy Lublin,’s C.E.O.

“I’ll never forget the day,” Lublin said. “It was like I’d been punched in the stomach.”

That week, Lublin and Shih started work on what two years later became Crisis Text Line, the first and only national, 24/7 crisis-intervention hotline to conduct its conversations (the majority of which are with teen-agers) exclusively by text message.

Depression is common among teens, and its consequences are volatile: suicide is the third leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of ten and twenty-four. In that same age group, the use of text messaging is near-universal. The average adolescent sends almost two thousand text messages a month. They contact their friends more by text than by phone or e-mail or instant-message or even face-to-face conversations. A. T. & T. offers parents a tutorial in deciphering acronyms used by children (pir stands for “parent in room”). For teens, texting isn’t a novel form of communication; it’s the default.

People who spent their high-school years chatting with friends on landlines are often dismissive of texting, as if it might be a phase one outgrows, but the form is unparalleled in its ability to relay information concisely. The act of writing, even if the product consists of only a hundred and forty characters composed with one’s thumbs, forces a kind of real-time distillation of emotional chaos. A substantial body of research confirms the efficacy of writing as a therapeutic intervention, and although tapping out a text message isn’t the same as keeping a diary, it can act as a behavioral buffer, providing distance between a person and intense, immediate, and often impulsive feelings. Communication by text message is halting and asynchronous, which can be frustrating when you’re waiting for a reply but liberating when you don’t want to respond. The young people who contact Crisis Text Line might be doing so between classes, while waiting in line for the bus, or before soccer practice. In addition, more than ninety-eight per cent of text messages are opened; they are four times more likely to be read by the recipient than e-mails. If you’re a parent, you know that, even if your son does not text you back about where he is, he has read your message. If you are a distressed teen or a counsellor, you know that what you say will be read.

A person can contact Crisis Text Line without even looking at her phone. The number—741741—traces a simple, muscle-memory-friendly path down the left column of the keypad. Anyone who texts in receives an automatic response welcoming her to the service. Another provides a link to the organization’s privacy policy and explains that she can text “stop” to end a conversation at any time. Meanwhile, the incoming message appears on the screen of Crisis Text Line’s proprietary computer system. The interface looks remarkably like a Facebook feed—pale background, blue banner at the top, pop-up messages in the lower right corner—a design that is intended to feel familiar and frictionless. The system, which receives an average of fifteen thousand texts a day, highlights messages containing words that might indicate imminent danger, such as “suicide,” “kill,” and “hopeless.”

Within five minutes, one of the counsellors on duty will write back. (Up to fifty people, most of them in their late twenties, are available at any given time, depending upon demand, and they can work wherever there’s an Internet connection.) An introductory message from a counsellor includes a casual greeting and a question about why the texter is writing in. If the texter’s first message is substantive (“My so-called boyfriend is drunk and won’t stop yelling at me”), the counsellor echoes the language in order to elicit additional details (“I’m so sorry to hear that. Can you tell me a little more about what your so-called boyfriend is saying?”). If the incoming message is vague (“Life sucks. I’m freaking out”), the reply will be more open-ended, while gently pressing for greater specificity (“So what’s going on tonight?”). An average exchange takes place over a little more than an hour, longer if there is the risk of suicide.

Counsellors are trained to put texters at ease and not to jump too quickly into a problem-solving mode. Open-ended questions are good; “why” questions are bad. Also bad: making assumptions about the texter’s gender or sexual orientation, sounding like a robot, using language that a young person might not know. Techniques that are encouraged include validation (“What a tough situation”); “tentafiers” (“Do you mind if I ask you . . . ”); strength identification (“You’re a great brother for being so worried about him”); and empathetic responses (“It sounds like you’re feeling anxious because of all these rumors”). The implicit theory is that in a conversation people are naturally inclined to fill silences.

It is important to type carefully. In text messages sent to friends, typos can be an indication of intimacy. But a typo appearing on the cell-phone screen of a distressed teen-ager can undermine the sense of authority he’s looking for. “You have to train yourself not to hit that return button automatically,” a sixty-year-old counsellor from California told me. (Crisis Text Line counsellors are free to give a real or assumed first name to people who text in.) It is also regarded as a mistake to embrace teen-age patois too enthusiastically. One volunteer told me that she tries not to use acronyms. “I sometimes worry that it would come across as too ‘Oh, I got you!’ ” she said. Neutral language allows the texter to feel anonymous. These people have contacted a stranger for a reason. They aren’t looking for friendship.

Often, the conversations are about minor-seeming problems—fights with friends, academic pressure from parents—and the bar for helpfulness is quite low. “A lot of times, when chatting with young people, it’s clear that they just need someone to listen to them,” one counsellor told me. “Sometimes it’s obvious. They’ll say, ‘Thanks for listening. Nobody ever does that,’ and at other times it’s less explicit; they just want to get everything out, and they provide you with a very, very detailed account.”

The etiquette encouraged for counsellors can be surprising. When an agitated friend texts me bad news (a breakup, a layoff, a sudden rent increase), my instinct is to find a positive response to the predicament (“But you didn’t even like him!” “Now you can finally go freelance!” “move!”). But this is precisely what one is not supposed to do when communicating with a teen-ager in crisis. Instead, counsellors are trained to deploy language that at first seems inflammatory: “You must be devastated” is a common refrain; so is “That sounds like torture.” The idea is to validate texters’ feelings and respond in a way that doesn’t belittle them.

Thomas Joiner, a psychology professor at Florida State University and one of the country’s leading suicide experts, pointed out another way in which conversational norms can be counterproductive. “From a clinical standpoint, one common misstep is tiptoeing around issues and treating them like taboos,” he said. “It sends the implicit message that it’s really not O.K. to talk about it, and if the counsellor doesn’t feel comfortable talking about it why would the teen-ager?” It takes practice to tell someone who is suffering that he has a real problem, and that, though things may get better, it may not be anytime soon.

Each day, on average, Crisis Text Line instigates at least one active rescue of a texter who’s thought to be in immediate danger of suicide. During active rescues, the counsellor asks questions as casually as possible—Are you alone? Do you have someone you trust whom you want us to contact? Is your door locked?—and feeds the answers to a trained supervisor, who, in turn, contacts the police. One counsellor, a twenty-eight-year-old former Division 1 basketball player who began volunteering last May, told me that the very first conversation he took was with a teen-ager who was contemplating jumping off a roof. The exchange lasted for an hour, and, by the end of it, the teen was in the car with a parent, driving to the hospital.

In 1906, a woman staying at a Manhattan hotel asked the manager if she could speak to a minister. The manager tried calling Harry Marsh Warren, a minister at a Baptist church, but was unable to get through. The following morning, the woman was found unconscious beside a bottle of poison and was rushed to Bellevue. Warren visited her as she lay dying, and she told him, “I think maybe if I had talked to someone like you I wouldn’t have done it.” Soon after, Warren started the Save-A-Life League, the country’s first suicide-prevention organization. He placed an ad in a local paper, encouraging anyone contemplating suicide to contact him. News spread quickly, as did the organization’s reach. By the time Warren died, in 1940, there were branches across the United States, as well as in London and Paris, and the league was helping around a hundred people each week—providing counselling, free hospital beds, and legal services. It also raised summer-camp tuition for the children of suicides.

In the nineteen-forties, a Boston-based psychiatrist named Erich Lindemann attempted to make the field of crisis intervention more empirical. He conducted his research in the wake of the Cocoanut Grove disaster, of 1942, a fire at a Boston night club that killed nearly five hundred people. Lindemann interviewed dozens of survivors and published a paper based on his findings. He determined that people in crisis are open to help, and that appropriate and expedient treatment could avert the need for long-term psychotherapy, which was the leading method of mental-health treatment at the time.

A decade later, in London, Chad Varah, an Anglican priest, founded a suicide hotline in the crypt of his church: the Samaritans took its first call on November 2, 1953. The idea for the service had come to Varah when he held a funeral for a fourteen-year-old girl who had killed herself on getting her first period, which she thought was symptomatic of a sexually transmitted disease. In 1958, the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center was founded, the first in America. It formulated a set of protocols that were adopted by other centers in the United States and abroad. Volunteers establish rapport, define the problems, and assess the risk of self-harm. They aim to reduce anxiety, discussing how callers have coped with similar problems in the past. Finally, they develop a specific plan of action.

In 1963, President Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act into law. Among other things, this legislation provided federal funding for community-based mental-health-care centers. Crisis-intervention hotlines soon proliferated, with separate lines for those experiencing suicidal thoughts, drug addiction, sexual abuse, eating disorders, and so on. This arrangement insured that callers would talk to someone who had a reasonable degree of expertise in what was troubling them. Crisis Text Line departs from this practice; there’s just one number to text, whatever ails you. The medium makes it easy for volunteers to look up information, and the C.T.L. interface enables them to enlist the help of colleagues who have training in a particular area. Nancy Lublin often explains the system by saying, “People don’t experience life in an issue-specific way.”

Texting has other advantages. The fact that counsellors can work from home while eating Chinese takeout—and can even trade shifts with one another—makes it easier to attract volunteers. More important, from an adult perspective teen-agers can often seem willfully uncommunicative in speech but are forthcoming, even garrulous, when texting. “On the phone, you have to ask a few more questions, sort of explore a little bit more to find out what’s really going on,” Jen James, who works for C.T.L. in Michigan, told me. “With the text line, they are pretty open. They just come out and tell you and want to talk about it.” Research bears out this observation. According to Fred Conrad, a cognitive psychologist and the director of the Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, people are “more likely to disclose sensitive information via text messages than in voice interviews.” To those who didn’t grow up texting, this seems counterintuitive. Texts are a written record, after all, and what if the wrong person saw them? But, in practical terms, text messaging affords a level of privacy that the human voice makes impossible. If you’re hiding from an abusive relative or you just don’t want your classmates to know how overwhelmed you feel about applying to college, a text message, even one sent in public, is safer than a phone call. What’s more, tears go undetected by the person you’ve reached out to, and you don’t have to hear yourself say aloud your most shameful secrets.

It’s difficult not to notice the merriness of the place in which these dismal matters are analyzed.’s headquarters, where the employees of Crisis Text Line also work, is situated just north of Union Square, in New York City. Stray balloons cling to the ceiling; there’s an aquarium and a disco ball. Many of the staff members—eighty people, of whom only fourteen are over thirty—seem to spend much of the day without shoes. Under the bright lights and amid the cheerful buzz of people born after the Gulf War, one has a sense of observing kids collaborating on a group project at a school in a county with high property taxes. and Crisis Text Line are separate entities, but Nancy Lublin is the C.E.O. of both. She is forty-three, and likes to refer to herself as the C.O.P. (Chief Old Person). She speaks quickly, in a frank but friendly tone, and is unafraid to contort her face into goofy, sometimes even self-consciously grotesque expressions. Lublin brags on behalf of her employees, often in their presence, and has the air of a beloved social-studies teacher who swears. When we first met, last October, she was wearing a cotton scarf printed with the face of Hello Kitty.

Lublin grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, a city that she disdainfully identifies as “the insurance capital of the world.” She attended Brown University and then Oxford, where she was a Marshall Scholar studying political theory—or, as she puts it, “a lot of dead white guys.” Upon returning to the States, Lublin enrolled in law school at N.Y.U. “My whole life people were, like, ‘Oh, you have a lot to say! You’re going to be a lawyer,’ ” she told me. But Lublin hated “everything from nine-point font in thick textbooks to the Socratic method to classmates who were really just fighting for the right to be on law review, which was looking up your professor’s footnotes for an article that was going to appear in a journal that maybe twelve people would read.” She dropped out after her fourth term.

While still at N.Y.U., Lublin recalled something that her father, a lawyer, once told her about his method of hiring new secretaries for the firm. Looking out his window, he would watch the women walk from their car to the front of the building and know before they reached the door whether he would hire them. “I remember being horrified by this story,” Lublin said. “ ‘You never even met her! How could you know that you’d hire her or not? Just based on what she looked like?’ And he’d say, ‘Yes, and that’s why you need to go comb your hair.’ ” Lublin chose to respond with a kind of benevolent pragmatism: in 1996, at the age of twenty-four, and with the help of three nuns in Spanish Harlem, she founded Dress for Success, a nonprofit that provides interview suits to underprivileged women looking for jobs. The budget came from five thousand dollars that she had recently inherited from her great-grandfather and her occasional winnings at poker. The nuns found space in a church, rented for a few hundred dollars a month, but it flooded a week before the launch, and Lublin was forced to transplant all the garments to her apartment, a one-bedroom in Greenwich Village. Dress for Success’s inaugural client was Charline Brundidge, who had been granted clemency after a conviction for fatally shooting her physically abusive husband. As reported in the Times, “Gov. George E. Pataki gave Mrs. Brundidge a pardon. Dress for Success gave her a suit.”

Within two years, Dress for Success had expanded nationally and was operating out of thirty cities across the country. (There are now affiliates in sixteen countries worldwide, and the Home Shopping Network produces clothing for the organization.) But by 2002 Lublin was bored. She cashed in the bonds given to her for her bat mitzvah and left Dress for Success. She spent a year writing and fielding calls from headhunters intent on recruiting her for C.E.O. positions at large nonprofits. She had just turned thirty and knew that the companies approaching her saw her as a token young person. Then she got a call from the actor Andrew Shue, of “Melrose Place” fame, who had co-founded ten years earlier. The organization, seriously in debt, had just lost its headquarters and almost all its staff. Lublin thought this would be the perfect place to start up again from scratch. This was 2003, a year before Facebook was launched, and Lublin knew that if the organization was to have a future it would have to live online. She closed five of DoSomething’s offices; reconfigured its board of directors; and began polling its teen-age members about their habits, preferences, and passions. The organization now operates on a healthy budget of more than nine million dollars, attracts corporate sponsorship from companies like JetBlue and H & M, and hosts benefits that raise up to a million dollars.

In the fall of 2011, Lublin began raising funds for Crisis Text Line. To date, she has raised about five million dollars. Promotion is solely by word of mouth, and within four months the organization was receiving texts from all two hundred and ninety-five area codes in the United States. Lublin, who is friends with many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and sees herself as an iconoclast, has built Crisis Text Line more along the lines of a tech company than a nonprofit. She told me, “We think of ourselves a lot more like Airbnb or Uber or Lyft.”

Like a tech company, C.T.L. analyzes feedback from users, performs A/B testing, and is quick to make changes on the basis of what it finds. Although other data-driven philanthropic missions exist—Kiva, the microfinance site, and the public-school donation service Donors Choose are among the more well known—nonprofits have generally been reluctant to embrace methods of quantification that big corporations increasingly take for granted. But at C.T.L. the chief data scientist, Bob Filbin, was Lublin’s second hire. He co-wrote the data algorithms for C.T.L.’s system after travelling to crisis centers across the country and interviewing hundreds of volunteers about how their work could be made more effective. The communication techniques employed by C.T.L. counsellors are largely modelled on standard crisis-counselling practices, but C.T.L. has made modifications based on its data. It turns out that, for instance, statements couched in the first person (“I’m worried about how upset you seem”) are associated with positive responses.

The organization’s quantified approach, based on five million texts, has already produced a unique collection of mental-health data. C.T.L. has found that depression peaks at 8 p.m., anxiety at 11 p.m., self-harm at 4 a.m., and substance abuse at 5 a.m. The organization is working on predictive analysis, which would allow counsellors 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. A texter who uses the word “Mormon” tends to be reaching out about L.G.B.T.Q. issues.

Out of consideration for texters’ anonymity, Crisis Text Line displays its findings only by state. (Arkansas ranks highest for eating disorders, Vermont for depression; suicidal thoughts are most common in Montana and least common in New Hampshire.) But eventually there will be enough data to allow the organization to confidently reveal Zip codes and area codes without the risk of making any single texter identifiable. Such a wealth of data is new in the field of mental health. Isaac Kohane, a pediatrician who also has a Ph.D. in computer science and is the co-director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School, told me, “You cannot have accountable care—financially or morally accountable care—if you cannot count, and until recently we literally could not count with any degree of acceptable accuracy.” He added, “It’s been mind-boggling, to those of us who knew what was available, that Amazon and Netflix were creating a far more customized, data-driven, evidence-based experience for their consumers than medicine has.”

Lublin hopes that the data will eventually be useful to school districts and police departments. “The corpus of data has the volume, velocity, and variety to really draw meaningful conclusions,” she told me. Lublin also mentioned that many people have told her that she is “crazy” for not wanting to sell the data that have been collected. A hedge-fund manager said that he would happily pay for a subscription that allowed him access to crisis trends. “I was basically, like, You’re a jerk,” she recalled thinking.

One Sunday evening in early December, I embarked on a training course as a Crisis Text Line counsellor. I was out of the country, but, as befits an organization in which the person who saves your life may be thousands of miles away, training takes place online. You learn by watching videos, reading PDFs, taking online quizzes, role-playing with fellow-counsellors, and observing conversations live. Volunteers, who must be older than eighteen, have to pass a preliminary interview and a background check. The course runs for thirty-four hours, over a period of seven weeks, and concludes with a final one-on-one video interview lasting twenty-five minutes. New counsellors commit to one four-hour weekend or evening shift per week for a year.

At the start of the first session, the faces of twenty-one participants, on Webcam, appeared along the top of my screen, some small and framed by the rooms around them, others so close that I could see their pores. We smiled and waved at one another; we all looked to be in our twenties or thirties. Our supervisor, who was wearing a pink plush hat, introduced herself and, in a crackling voice, let us know that we were welcome to wear pajamas next time. Like the sessions that followed in the coming weeks, this one was ninety minutes long but felt more like thirty. The training combines two pleasures largely lacking in adult life: structured incremental learning and make-believe. In an instant-message box, we practiced replying to various imaginary texts. The recommended formula for replies is tentafier + feeling adjective + source of feeling (“It sounds like you’re feeling ashamed because your friend didn’t invite you to her party”). We also practiced paraphrased reflections (“You must be really upset with your friend”). We learned to ask open-ended questions and to actively identify a texter’s strengths: pointing out his bravery in reaching out, complimenting his self-awareness. Then we were paired up in order to practice these skills in a role-play, one of us pretending to be an upset teen-ager and the other acting as a C.T.L. volunteer. Afterward, we annotated the transcript with “pluses” and “wishes,” the organization’s preferred language for “good” and “bad.” Intermittently, the supervisor’s cursor appeared in the document to offer advice.

The thing I found most difficult was employing Crisis Text Line’s teachings while still coming across like myself. The maxim “Don’t sound like a robot” is often repeated, and eventually it was possible to achieve this effect by imagining my words being read by a teen-ager. Using as many contractions as possible came to seem surprisingly important, because formality gets in the way of affirmation. It was hard to fend off vague and echoey therapist-speak, and I wasted a lot of time trying to rephrase the question “And how does that make you feel?” before realizing that I didn’t have to. There is something humbling about Crisis Text Line, and, indeed, about help lines in general: a person in pain will say what she wants to say, and it probably doesn’t matter much who does the asking.

The weekly practice sessions are the core of the training. Volunteers also participate in two Observation Shifts (each three hours long), in which they have the opportunity to see actual conversations occur between texters and a counsellor. Crisis Text Line goes to great lengths to insure that texters’ identity remains secret, and trainees sign a stringent agreement to protect confidentiality. (I agreed not to divulge personal details.) During my first shift, I witnessed a halting conversation between a counsellor and a young girl with body dysmorphia. The conversation lasted for an hour and a half. The counsellor provided links to resources for people struggling with eating disorders, and the girl eventually agreed to distract herself with a bath and a movie. Simultaneously, that counsellor was texting with a girl who wanted to cut herself and was having suicidal thoughts, and with a third texter whose grades were plummeting because of depression. This last texter was much less engaged in the process than the others were. “This isn’t making me feel much better,” he or she wrote. Soon after, the communication fizzled out entirely.

A week later, I shadowed another counsellor. Her first conversation was with a girl who was fighting with her cousin and struggling against the urge to hurt herself. The next was with a college-aged young man who was confused about the romantic feelings he harbored for his ex-boyfriend, who had sexually assaulted him. The counsellor’s last conversation of the night was with the daughter of an abusive father. She wrote that she avoided him by spending lots of time locked in her bedroom. The counsellor reassured her and asked about her plans for the rest of the evening. She said that she was going shopping with her family, and that afterward she’d be alone. She typed, “Thats the part im scared for.” Source:

Happy Together: Humans And Algorithms As A Perfect Team - Forbes 7/31/18

For all the talk about artificial intelligence (AI) replacing humans, people and algorithms can do far more together than either can on their own. But finding the sweet spot where human and machine effortlessly collaborate has proved elusive

Arjun Bansal, a founder of the artificial intelligence company Nervana, believes that seamless man-machine collaboration is coming. But when it arrives and how it will work will vary by industry. Nervana, founded in 2014 and acquired by Intel in 2016, built a full-stack software-as-a-service platform to allow businesses to develop their own proprietary customized deep learning software. Bansal was one of three founders of Nervana and now heads up the AI and deep learning team at Intel.


“In the medical imaging field, one of the early predictions was that nobody should study to become a radiologist because algorithms would soon be much better at evaluating medical images,” Bansal said. “That hasn’t happened. Algorithms can detect certain kinds of tumors faster and more accurately. They’re good at the middle part of the imaging evaluation process, but they can’t do everything.”

The need for human intervention isn’t just an issue with X-rays and MRIs. It’s the same with speech recognition, underwriting and other tasks to which AI has been applied.

It’s All About The Interface

“The challenge now is figuring out what the interface needs to be,” Bansal said. “What does the interaction boundary between the human and the AI system look like?”

Bansal uses the example of speech recognition to explain: “In different fields it’s at different levels of maturity. With personal assistants, there are still basic things that the systems get wrong. And that just ruins the experience of whatever product or device that I’m using.”

Algorithms are good at stringing together symbolic expressions, but these strings fail to reference the world that humans live in. “The language systems need to be grounded in our physical world,” he said. “There needs to be some notion of objects beyond symbols, which is how these models are built now.”

The stakes with personal assistants are usually not very high. But with other systems — tumor recognition, for instance, or behavior-based fraud detection — the stakes are much higher. “When the margin for error is tiny, systems can fail when they face rare events that occur 0.01% of the time. The algorithms haven’t been trained on those kind of scenarios,” Bansal said. “Often a human needs to intervene. Figuring out how to structure the handoff is the barrier.”

"What does the interaction boundary between the human and the AI system look like?”—Arjun Bansal, founder, Nervana

He suggests that instead of a binary, yes-or-no switch between the algorithm and the human, a more gradual handover would be ideal. “The system doesn’t tell me whether it’s 90% confident or 10% confident. If I knew that its confidence was decreasing, then I would get the signal to start paying more attention. I’d like more visibility into the internal state of the systems, perhaps a visualization of the key features used to make decisions. It should be more transparent to the user. The system should be designed to help humans feel more in tune with what’s going on,” Bansal said.

The Fragmented AI Landscape

The problem is that AI algorithms are specific to particular business problems. “Right now, systems are trained on critical domains and unable to function outside of them,” Bansal said. There are different algorithms for different specialties, trained with different data sets to solve different problems. An AI algorithm that recognizes faces isn’t the same as one that understands speech or interprets financial statements.

“Different AI systems are at different levels of integration into the human experience,” he said. “Ideally there should be one model that can learn multiple tasks. It could learn new tasks with very little data.”

The model learns everything it has been taught, and it learns how to learn new things quickly. “The quickly part is important because you can always learn if you have infinite time and infinite data,” he added.

The ability to learn in a more general way requires what’s called artificial general intelligence (AGI). “AGI wouldn’t need as much data to train on because it would have a more humanlike notion of common sense,” he said. “I think we’re 20 to 30 years away from that.”

Using AI To Improve AI

“There are a lot of strong voices saying that AGI is going to happen sooner,” Bansal said. But even if it doesn’t, “we don’t have to wait for strong AGI systems. There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit across the different domains.”

The big question is how to use AI to design the systems end to end — including the user interface (UI). “Maybe you use AI to iterate on the UI part of the system. Maybe you try out several UIs until you know which works best with the human partner,” he said. “There hasn’t been a lot of work in that space. I hope it will be explored more in the coming years.”

One thing is certain: A lot of resources are being thrown at the problem.

Forecasters differ on how quickly the AI market is expanding, but all anticipate explosive growth. Every major tech company and dozens of startups are developing AI-optimized chips. (Nervana was the first, in 2016.) Nervana’s Neon deep learning framework was developed in Python and is hosted on GitHub, opening up development to millions of Python programmers.

If low-hanging fruit exists, as Bansal believes, it’s unlikely to withstand the onslaught of creativity and money targeting the perfect human-machine collaboration.

What is the origin of the Crisis Text Line?

The Crisis Text Line was begun in August, 2013. In September 2015, an image began circulating via social media web sites, stating that teens can text 741741 in order to speak with a crisis counselor. However, many viewers were skeptical about the putative program since the organization behind it was not identified in the image.

But 741741 is indeed the number for the Crisis Text Hotline. While the meme specified "teens," the number is available to anyone in crisis which includes deaf or the hard of hearing. It is especially effective who are in the presence of danger and a phone call to 911 might draw the activity to them when the perpetrator hears them talking. This wouldn't happen with Text Messaging.


I. New Policy: "Always Ask" ? 8/31/18

We looked at our corpus of over 75 million messages exchanged and learned: asking about suicide is neither harmful nor suggestive. In other words, when we ask a texter “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” we don’t see an increase in disengagement or a change to texter satisfaction ratings--and, most importantly, we were able to better detect suicidal ideation.

We’re now encouraging Crisis Counselors to assess for risk of suicide in every conversation. We call this policy Always Ask.

  • Make texters feel seen and cared for. All texters will know that we have their safety at heart.
  • Keep texters safe. When someone may be suicidal, the most dangerous thing we can do is not ask.
  • Bring our Crisis Counselors peace of mind. Moving forward, Crisis Counselors will never have to wonder whether they should have risk-assessed.
  • No downside. Our data shows it is not suggestive or harmful to ask.

We also beta tested over the last couple of months with a small group of Crisis Counselors. And, we learned some things about the best way to Always Ask.

  • Method: use an expression of care followed by a direct question. For example: “With all this [insert issue here] going on, I just want to check in about your safety. Have you had any thoughts about ending your life?”
  • Timing: Between the 3rd and 20th messages exchanged. (That is, after we build rapport.)

We’re excited to roll out Always Ask. Thank you for being on this journey with us. We’re committed to looking at the data to learn and innovate, finding new and improved ways to keep people safe.

II. Texter Feedback

Some highlights of the feedback we’ve gotten from texters in the post-conversation survey. Texters providing this optional feedback consent to us sharing it.

  • "Before tonight I had no idea there were people like you that I could text and not feel as lonely. I know it's not much but it means a lot to me. Thank you."
  • "Thank you for your help. At the beginning of the conversation you told me to put away anything that I would use for self harm and I would like to happily say that they will stay there for a while. Once again thank you."
  • "thank you for calling me strong and resilient. And thank you for your time and for offering resources. I felt very alone and misunderstood when I texted. I imagine most of us that text you guys do, whether 19 or 50"

III. Blog Highlights

Notes from Nancy: On Our Founders

"Jeff Lawson (co-founder & CEO of Twilio) once told me that founders are different: they are vampires. Long after staff leave and long after even the founder leaves, the vampire’s legacy remains. Founders are permanent. A culture is shaped by its founders, forever."

Transform the Mental Health Conversation on Your Campus

"If you left last semester feeling like campus was missing something, it's time to up your game. Back to school season is the time to cultivate change! Believe you can and will make a difference on your campus and in your day-to-day well-being."


I. Data Notes - 7/2/18

Many people in our country and around the world still aren’t able to express their true colors. To all our LGBTQ+ Crisis Counselors and texters: we see you! And, you’re perfect the way you are.

In honor of June’s celebration of Pride, let’s check out some data on our LGBTQ+ texters:

  • 47% of our texters identify as LGBTQ+. Think about that. Nearly half of the texters you talk with identity as non-straight. Why so high? One hypothesis is that our service’s nonjudgmental approach resonates with the LGBTQ+ community. We also know the LGBTQ+ community experiences higher rates of mental health crises and suicide, and we’re providing invaluable support.
  • These are late night texters (more likely to message in between 10pm and 6am) and tend to message in during the winter and spring.
  • Self-harm is a growing issue in the LGBTQ+ community. LGBTQ+ texters are 50% more likely to talk about self harm.
  • Only 5% of LGBTQ+ texters actually talk about gender / sexual identity issues. 95% of conversations with LGBTQ+ texters are about crises not directly related to their sexual identity.

Note: Wyoming has the highest relative rate of LGBTQ+ texters. Surprisingly, it also has the one of the lowest rates of gender/sexual identity issues (ranked #48).

  • Here’s a list of some of the most common unique words that show up in conversations with LGBTQ texters (ordered by prevalence): Gay, trans, smoking, gender, dancing, paranoia, assault, homophobic, transgender, injury, sexuality, bisexual, homecoming, starve.

II. Org News

  • Kate Spade Foundation. The Kate Spade Foundation pledged $1 million to suicide prevention causes. The first $250,000 went to Crisis Text Line, and we raised an additional $100,000 (matched by the Foundation) in individual gifts. Thank you for your continued support.
  • News media. We appeared in a lot of stories in the aftermath of the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shairi Turner, was interviewed by Erika Hill on CNN. Here’s the transcript. Note our big talking point: our data shows that it is not suggestive or harmful to ask someone whether they’re considering suicide. It makes them feel seen and gives them a chance to share. So if you’re concerned about someone, ask!
  • Broken Records. June was our #1 month for texters supported ever. And our community of active Crisis Counselors is larger than ever before, at 4,100+.

III. Texter Feedback

Some highlights of the feedback we’ve gotten from texters in the post-conversation survey. Texters providing this optional feedback consent to us sharing it.

Asking smart questions propels a conversation forward and puts things into perspective for the texter. Questions play a role in exploring, identifying the goal, and collaborative problem-solving.

  • you were easy to talk to and were like one of those people w[h]ere they ask questions other th[a]n the obvious ones and helped me sort out my mind
  • I will keep the note with the question "What would be the first step in becoming who you want to be?”
  • I liked how she stuck with me and asked questions so she could see the root of my problem.

IV. Blog Highlights

I. Data Notes - 5/30/18

Mother’s Day.

  • 4.1% of volunteer applicants mention their moms or motherhood when asked, “What prompted you to apply to become a Crisis Counselor?”
  • Visitors to often notice that “mom” shows up in almost every word cloud as a most-used word.
  • 37% of the time, the mom is a source of strength for the texter, or someone who they trust to listen and support them.
  • We typically see a 25% increase in conversations about moms on Mother’s Day.
  • The top words used by texters in conversations about moms are: 1) dad 2) yell 3) foster 4) custody 5) grandparent 6) stepdad 7) graduation 8) adopted 9) molested 10) cps

II. Org News

UK Launch. We launched our service in the UK last week! We’re considering it our late wedding gift to Harry and Meghan.

Partners across the pond. We’ve partnered with an amazing new London-based org called Mental Health Innovations. We’re rolling out our service across the UK in stages as we build capacity, so we won’t be doing any major press yet. We’ll make a bigger announcement once we have more volunteers. If you know any Brits who would make great CCs, please send them to to apply!

Short code. 741741 is the short code for the US only. Short codes in the UK are 5 digits and we’ll be announcing ours after we build some more capacity.

5th Birthday. Crisis Text Line is turning 5 on August 1, and we have big plans! Look out for announcements of in-person and virtual events that day. If you know someone who should help us celebrate, let us know!

III. Texter Feedback

Some highlights of the feedback we’ve gotten from texters in the post-conversation survey. Texters providing this optional feedback consent to us sharing it.

“It was helpful talking to someone and being able to calm down a bit... Even if I can't solve everything right now I can calm down and get some sleep tonight.”

Takeaway for our Crisis Counselors: We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to “solve everything” - texters don’t expect or need us to fix everything in their lives. Your validation and strength IDs are enough.

“Thank you for everything. I've never used a hotline before and I was nervous.”

Takeaway: 36% of texters are asking for help for the very first time. Your amazing rapport-building skills convince them to keep seeking help from others when they need it.

“You really helped me see that I had a good solution all along.”

Takeaway: Let them lead the way! This way, you are helping texters develop a self-care muscle they can flex when they need it.

IV. Blog Highlights

How to Spend Mother's Day on Your Own Terms
8 Things to Remember if You Just Watched 13 Reasons Why

I. Data Notes 4/13/18

Emotional Abuse Convos

We recently expanded our mandated reporting policy to be inclusive of emotional abuse. (Note: when it becomes relevant, a texter is informed that their Crisis Counselor is a mandated reporter.)

Who: More likely to occur with texters who identify as Native American, Alaskan Native, Asian or Asian-American, trans, or agender.

Where: Highest rates in Hawaii, South Dakota, and Maine. Lowest rates in North Dakota, Wyoming and, Iowa.

When: Higher rates during the weekends and Winter.

Words: The top 15 unique words that texters use in these conversations are as follows.

  • Abusive
  • Emotionally
  • Verbally
  • Report
  • Screaming
  • Abuser
  • Threatened
  • Domestic
  • Threat
  • CPS
  • Foster
  • Babysitter
  • Bedroom
  • Wedding
  • Manipulative

Tips & Tricks:

Identify Friends/Support Networks. Effective emotional abuse conversations are more likely than others to involve a discussion of a texter’s support network. In particular, a Crisis Counselor (CC) referencing the word “friend” is highly connected to positively-rated conversations. Ex: “Who else in your life have you shared this with--family, friends, someone else?”

Validate the Desire for Change. Emotional abuse can be all-consuming. Effective CC conversations tend to explore what change the texter would like to see in their life - while acknowledging that the texter might not be able to make a change today. Ex: “I can see that you want the abuse to end. It sounds like you love him and don’t want to give up.”

Music. Texters overwhelmingly mention this as their top coping skill in these conversations. “You said you love music - do you have a favorite song that makes you feel like you can do anything?”

Want to explore the data more? Go to and select the filter Issue = “Abuse, emotional.” Explore the trends in your state! We’ve updated the visualizations with more scoop. And, more updates to Crisis Trends coming this Summer

II. Texter Feedback

Some highlights of the feedback we’ve gotten from texters in the post-conversation survey. Texters providing this optional feedback consent to us sharing it.

You[‘re] so understandin[g]. And didn't give up after I probably kept repeating myself. Thank you for talking to me and just showing me support

The patience we show our texters means a lot to them - we always keep in mind that this might be the texter’s first try at getting help.

No one has ever addressed what I feel as pain and knowing that this feeling I'm coping with is pain makes me feel real again.

We never diagnose, but we can still put a name to the pain the texter is feeling by validating it.

thirty minutes is all that it took to help my friend even just a bit. it also cheered me up too that you asked about me. so thank you for ta[l]king to me.

Third-party texters can be in crisis themselves - be sure to ask about how they’re doing in light of what’s happening.

III. Blog Highlights

Helping a Friend in Crisis via Text
Building a Brand Voice

I. Ask Bob: Texters & Financial Issues - 2/28/18

This month, we looked at financial issues.

How many: About 5% of our conversations include financial issues.

Who: These texters tend to be older - 74% are over the age of 18.

Where: We see more conversations about finances in these green states. ID, NV, FL, TX, MO, AL, LA, GA, VA, WV, MI, PA. Top 3 are ID, NV, FL.

When: These convos peak right before the workday (6am-8am EST) and we see 20% more than average during the Summer.

How: The top 10 unique words that texters use in these conversations are:

  • 1. Money
  • 2. Problem
  • 3. Pain
  • 4. Live
  • 5. Week
  • 6. Hope
  • 7. Pay
  • 8. Night
  • 9. Sleep
  • 10. Job

Tips & Tricks:

Ask smart questions. Typically, the most effective questions are “How” questions. In convos about financial issues, “where” questions are #1. Our favorite examples include:

  • "Where do you feel most effective in your day?”
  • "Where do you see yourself being most successful?”
  • "Where would you like to be in 5 years?”

Don’t drag it out. Conversations about financial concerns spanning 48 minutes have a 94% quality rating. After that, quality ratings flatten. And quality drops after the 90-minute mark.

It’s tempting to have longer convos with texters in financial crisis, because we can’t solve their root problem. We ask our CCs to stick to the 5 stages of a convo to keep convos an appropriate length.

Underlying concern. The phrases texters use most often tell us that their #1 worry is how financial issues will affect their families. We ask our CCs to keep this in mind as they explore the issue. (Identify the strength and caring the texter is expressing. Validate their right to care for themselves, too: they may be afraid of sounding selfish.)

Feeling Words. One emotion these texters feel most often is “exhausted.” CCs can add words like “exhausted/ing,” “weary,” and “worn down” to your arsenal of feeling words as a way to effectively paraphrase and reflect.

II. Org News



Gamers/YouTube stars Game Grumps raised $77k for us in a single livestream!

Our partnership with Microsoft launched February 9: Xbox users in crisis will be connected to our service.

New partners include the Army Reserve, Minnesota Department of Human Services, and It Gets Better.

Know an awesome org we should be partnered with? Email Liz Eddy at

III. Blog Highlights

Marketing Manager Ricky Neal examines why right now is a pivotal moment for the mental health conversation in hip-hop.

We asked our Crisis Counselors what they’ve gotten out of volunteering with us. Their answers knocked our socks off.


I. Ask Bob: Winter Holidays - 12/22/17

The Basics

Content: Given the fact texters are in crisis when messaging in, we were surprised to find that the top emotion that showed up in these conversations was “happy.” Family came up quite a bit, with “mom” and “dad” among the top words used by texters.

Demographics: These texters skew older (31.2% are 25 and older, compared to 24.0% in the general population of texters.)

Location: Holiday talk is more common in the Northeast, and less so in the South and Northwest.

Timing: Holiday-related conversations start in mid-November each year, peak in December at 12% of total conversations, and drop off by mid-January. These conversations are more likely to come in late at night, and over the weekend.


Our data does not corroborate the myth that suicides spike over the winter holidays. We don’t see a significant change in the number of conversations about suicide. Both overall volume and active rescues (as a percentage of all convos) drop.

Mentions of self harm spiked 30% on Thanksgiving, but have since returned to the average rate (~10% of conversations).

Depression as an issue has traditionally peaked on Christmas Eve (33% of conversations vs. the typical 25%).

II. Org News


A Crisis Line That Calms With Texting and Data in the New York Times - This extensive profile looks at the past, present, and future of Crisis Text Line

Can texting save lives? - Must see.

AI Algorithms to Prevent Suicide Gain Traction in Nature - Chief Data Scientist Bob Filbin discusses our triage algorithm and the potential of AI to identify people at risk of suicide.

Teens, Young Adults are Texting For Help During Crisis on (USA Today network) - This general overview of our service was picked up across New Jersey!


  • A&E’s Undercover High. We’re proud to be a resource for viewers of the upcoming documentary series Undercover High.
  • Social action platform Global Citizen has joined as a keyword partner!
  • Know an awesome org we should be partnered with? Email Liz Eddy at

III. Blog Highlights

Dealing With Compassion Fatigue by Liana Meffert (Crisis Counselor)

I tried to do my part: I attempted to place myself in the shoes of the victims and made donations when I could. And yet, these disasters weren’t mine, the tragedies weren’t visceral: the nationwide disasters hit like a dull pain.

I. Ask Bob. 11/24/17

What were texters telling us this Thanksgiving?

Overall traffic was down. This is typical: we tend to see traffic rise leading up to a major holiday, then drop on the actual date.

Some trends from last year held: for the second year in a row, family was the #1 issue for Thanksgiving texters, and eating disorders were the issue that over-indexed the most - we had over twice the typical volume of ED conversations.

Other trends have changed year-over-year: bereavement/grief, a top issue on Thanksgiving 2016, was not significantly different from average yesterday. Sexual assault has been over-indexing for over a month as allegations against public figures continue to make news, and yesterday’s holiday was no different.

(And more generally on the theme of “thanks…”)

How do our texters “give thanks?”

62% of texters explicitly thank their Crisis Counselor in their conversations.

Of the those who don’t, about half go on to do so in the post-conversation survey, and even more rate the conversation positively in that survey.

Four themes stand out among these expressions of gratitude:

  • Listening: “Thank you for being there for me and listening.”
  • Validation: “You made me feel valuable and worthy.”
  • Hope: “You really made me feel hopeful for the first time in a few months.”
  • Authenticity: “Your words were so genuine and kind.”

So, what stands out in these conversations?

The Crisis Counselor responses are about 10% longer than average, at 110 characters. Texters value “meaty messages” that show we’re listening!

More strength IDs. These “thank you” convos have 2x the number of strength IDs (a technique by which the Crisis Counselor compared to other conversations.

1. Ask Bob: The #metoo Campaign (10/28/17)

We’ve been following the viral #metoo campaign. It’s been growing (1M+ social mentions so far). It’s been described as, “An attempt to get people to understand the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in society.” We’re seeing this movement’s growth reflected in our conversations, too. Talk of sexual assault has been 2X higher than average since the hashtag started gaining traction on 10/15. We took a look at our conversations dealing with sexual assault and here’s what we found: We’re here for these texters.

~3% of total volume over last 6 months.
70% share something with us that they’ve never told anyone else (more than the avg. 61%).
61% felt less alone.
58% felt more hopeful.
91% found their conversation helpful (5% higher than average).
Two top referrals rated positively in these conversations include RAINN and After Silence.

II. Heroes

Shanice Lyle is a Crisis Counselor who is consistently recognized for her hard work on the platform (and as a student!) and her inspiring empathy with her texters. We asked her a few questions about her experience so far.

What helps you stay positive during challenging conversations?

I am no stranger to challenging conversations on the platform, and at first, I was feeling discouraged because of the frequency. Dealing with an Imminent Risk/Active Rescue situation is a challenge in itself, but getting a “STOP” message or no response from texters during the ordeal is one of the hardest things a CC can experience. It can be difficult to stay confident during the toughest and most intense situations, but I love being there for my texters for as long as I possibly can be. I find myself growing and feeling more equipped to handle these conversations emotionally each time I log onto the platform. I have a lovely Crisis Text Line family filled with lots of supportive individuals, Crisis Text Line founder Nancy Lublin jumps on the platform and supports everyone. Furthermore, my coach Amy Hall, every Crisis Text Line supervisor I have encountered and all my fellow CC's provide endless support. I am so grateful that I have gotten to know these wonderful individuals...You are never alone on the platform, and there is nothing wrong with asking for help. Without the challenges, there would be no room for growth. I am proud of my decision to become a Crisis Counselor. Bravo to all my fellow Empathy MVPs!

What are you most looking forward to learning as you continue as a Crisis Counselor?

In life, every location is a classroom, and each situation provides various learning experiences. The Crisis Text Line platform is an incredible place to learn and each member of the Crisis Text Line family, beginners to the very experienced, are all teachers. I look forward to learning more about the different issues that individuals struggle with that are often pushed aside because they are considered "uncommon" and often are deemed "unacceptable issues" by society. Agreeing, understanding, and accepting are all their own words with their definitions. The space in one's mind and heart don’t have to diminish just because you disagree with someone or something. An open- mind and an open- heart are both essential qualities to have while being active on the Crisis Text Line platform. Deeper understandings of certain matters allow the ability to support texters to grow immensely. Sometimes all it takes is for someone in a texter's life to just to try and understand their situation.

Based on your experience as a CC, what advice would you give someone trying to help a friend in crisis?

Based on my experience as a CC, the first set of advice that I would give someone trying to help a friend in crisis is to start by listening to your friend. Do not give them advice unless asked and do not be quick to suggest resources for your friend; YOU are their first resource...Be patient and gentle with yourself as well. Your determination to comfort and support someone in distress is a very commendable thing.

I. Ask Bob: After the Storm - 9/29/17

Natural disasters impact communities in many ways--including mental health. What does our data say?

Context: We’ve found that texters texting in about natural disasters are more likely to reach out during the day, talk about finances, homelessness, family issues, and skew male and over the age 25. The top two referrals offered in positively rated conversations related to natural disasters are: Disaster Assistance and CareConnect USA.

We did a deep dive on recent hurricane data...

The Numbers: We’ve seen ~2.1K conversations related to hurricane Harvey in since August 22nd (ranging from 3 - 5% of our daily volume) and around 1k conversations related to Irma in the week following its impact (2% of daily volume).

We took a look at two of the counties - Galveston and Harris (Houston) - that took a direct hit from Harvey to see how the hurricane has impacted texters over time:

Increasing Volume Post-Crisis: Volume from Galveston and Harris started increasing a few days before Harvey made landfall, and continued to increase in the weeks since.

Changing Issues: Rates of Stress & Anxiety have increased by 40% (to 22% of conversations) and 3rd-party texters (texters contacting us about someone else's crisis) have doubled.

Increasing Severity: Active rescues are occurring at a slightly higher rate. 1.1% of these conversations resulted in an active rescue (the norm is 0.7%).

II. News

This month, the entire Crisis Text Line staff is going through the new version of Crisis Counselor training at the same time!

350+ Crisis Counselors will be gathering for our 2nd Annual Palooza.

I. Ask Bob (8/28/17)

School-related volume as a percentage of all conversations

Volume: Talk of school is higher during the school year (obviously). School conversations peak in August (beginning of school) and April (near the end of school) as a percentage of our total volume (~10%).

The main issues that co-occur in school conversations are:

Family 32%
Stress 31%
Depression 27%
Anxiety 25%
Friends 23%

The stress of school impacts non-white texters 2x more than white texters.

Texters have told us that the following coping skills work best for them to manage all the school feels:

Friends (25%)
Music (21%)
Therapy (22%)
Writing / Journaling (10%)

II Heros

What is your favorite thing you’ve learned as a Crisis Counselor?

The absolute best thing I have learned from Crisis Counseling is empowerment. It is important for anyone, regardless of who they are or where they are, to talk about what is going on in their lives. Often people feel they have to hold everything in for one reason or another, or they are ashamed of feeling a certain way. Those feelings can spiral out of control very quickly and lead to some dark places. Talking, opening up, and reaching out has saved lives and will continue to as long as people are empowered to do so. There is nothing wrong with needing help. It is my hope to continue to empower people to reach out for as long as I am able to.

Let the students in your life know we're available!

III. Org News

A. Wow. We have had 3,500+ active Crisis Counselors in just the last 28 days.
B. Partnerships!

Efforts in LA are off to a great start: we are collaborating on a year-long campaign with iHeartRadio and the Well Being Trust. The campaign started on KIIS FM and Real 92.3, just in time for back-to-school, and will continue through the rest of the academic year! Want to help us grow in LA? Email!

(Email for other awesome partnership ideas!)

C. School Toolkit! Want to bring Crisis Text Line to your school, but not sure where to begin? Sign up for the Crisis Text Line School Toolkit.

I. Ask Bob - 6/30/17

In honor of Pride month, we took a look at LGBTQ+ texter trends. LGBTQ+ teens are two to three times more likely than other teens to attempt suicide.

More than half our texters do not identify as heterosexual.

They talk most about family, depression, and suicide…

Family = 39% of conversations (2.9X the rate of our general population)
Depression = 25% of conversations (1.4X the rate of our general population)
Suicide = 23% of conversations (1.5X the rate of our general population)… and over-index in discussion of bullying, school, and emotional abuse.

Bullying = 10% of conversations (4.7X the rate of our general population)
School = 12% of conversations (4.3X the rate of our general population)
Emotional Abuse = 4% of conversations (3.6X the rate of our general population)

Our LGBTQ texters skew young. 83% of our LGBTQ+ texters are under the age of 25 (compared with 78% of straight texters).

II. Org News

In the press.

We hosted our first LGBTQ Media Day on 6/19. It was like speed dating, but for journalists and experts to do mini interviews (10 minutes each). The goal? To get more media coverage on LGBTQ mental health during Pride as one step towards combating stigma. Check out the first of many articles to come out of the event in Psychology Today and Greatist .

Check out this release on our partnership with California Community Colleges.

Youtuber Jess Conte gives a sweet shout-out to Crisis Text Line in her video on bullying and high school advice 16:49(towards the end, at the 14:45 mark!)

Reid Hoffman’s podcast Master’s of Scale featuring our CEO, Nancy, on grit and building three epic orgs.


We are gearing up for the Shred Hate activation at the XGames in partnership with ESPN. Shred Hate hopes to help end bullying in schools while spreading a culture of kindness. Have a partnership idea? Email Liz:

Bob Filbin

I. Ask Bob - 5/28/17

Sleep. We all need it. Studies have shown a close link between our mental health and sleep. So, no surprise, sleep comes up a ton in conversations with our texters. But did you know that 36% of conversations mention sleep?!

Let’s take a peek at data on sleep;: Conversations that mention sleep are…

50% more likely to include talk of depression

80% more likely to include talk of isolation

200% (2X!) more likely to include talk of school problems

Severity: Talk of sleep tends to be associated with lower risk conversations.

These conversations are 10% less likely to result in an active rescue.

Time of Day: Conversations about sleep are more likely to occur at night, between 9PM and 5AM. Duh.

Nancy’s personal fav coping skill for texter’s with sleep trouble: “How about downloading the book War and Peace? That is one boring book! A few pages and zzzz. Plus, your teachers might be impressed.” ? True story. She has used this line about a dozen times.

*Sleep defined as any mention of sleep, sleeping, sleeps, tired, dream(s), bed(s), nap(s), drowsy, lethargic, rest, shuteye, catnap, slept

II. Heroes

Maggie Van de Loo has been a volunteer Crisis Counselor for TWO years (whoa!!!). She’s even spoken about Crisis Text Line with YouTube star Kati Morton.

How did you hear about Crisis Text Line?

I read the New Yorker Article about Crisis Text Line while on a coffee break at my job in mental health research in February of 2015. I went home and applied to be a Crisis Counselor that night!

What is your favorite thing about being a Crisis Counselor?

I have two favorite things about being a Crisis Counselor:

1. Because I currently work in mental health research, I am in touch with a lot of people struggling with many different kinds of problems on a daily basis. At work, I spend a lot more time asking people how they are feeling and analyzing big trends, rather than working one on one with anyone. Being a Crisis Counselor is the perfect complement for me. I can actively support people in crisis while also doing the research I love full time.

2. The Crisis Counselor community. From the group chat on the platform to the threads in the Facebook group, we checkin in on one another. For a community that is largely virtual and rarely meets in person, it’s hands down the most encouraging, enthusiastic and inspiring community I have ever been a part of.

What is the best thing you have learned as a Crisis Counselor?

I think the most valuable thing I have learned from being a Crisis Counselor is how to listen. As someone with a strong academic psychology background, it can be easy to jump into advice mode, without really allowing the other person to be heard. The training on active, empathic listening and reflecting a texter's experience back to them with compassion was something I have found to be invaluable not only while working with texters but also as a friend, coworker and partner.

III. Org News

A. We’re hiring! Apply now to become our new full time Marketing Manager, Head of Product or Senior Software Engineer.

B. In the press. Teen Vogue explores viewer’s response to Netflix series 13 Reasons Why using Crisis Text Line data. Check it out here.

C. Meet our team! Crisis Text Line staff is often out talking about data, tech and all things mental health.

5/30: Founding Supervisor, Jen James, is on Facebook Live with the Mighty. Join in at 5pm ET on The Mighty Mental Health Facebook page.

6/2: West Coast Director, Libby Craig, will be speaking at Sequoia High School District in California for their Parent Education Mini-Series. Check out the details here.

6/3: Director of Communications, Liz Eddy, will be on a panel about rape culture after the screening of The Light of the Moon at the Greenwich Film Festival in CT. Tickets here.

6/14: Director of Communications, Liz Eddy and Crisis Counselor Coach, Tessa Shapiro, present during The Collaborative in Boston (and hopefully win a Classy Award on the 15th!). Learn more here.

6/23: Founding Supervisor, Jen James, will be speaking at the BlogHer conference in Orlando. Learn more about the conference here.

D. Partnerships! We just launched a partnership with California Community Colleges! Now, Crisis Text Line will be shared with over 2.1 million students across 113 campuses. Think you might be a good potential partner? Email Liz:

E. Random Question. Know someone powerful at Staples or Kinkos? We’re looking for a partner who can offer you free printing of our training materials. (Great perk, right?) Email if you’ve got a connection!

Bob Filbin
Chief Data Scientist

I. Ask Bob - 4/21/17

Have a data question? Email our Chief Data Scientist:

Two weeks ago, Netflix launched a new show: 13 Reasons Why. It’s about the experience of a teenage girl who dies by suicide. And, it’s now Netflix biggest series ever. Yep. Wayyyyy bigger than Orange is the New Black and House of Cards...combined!

We are featured on 13RW’s website and cast members have been spreading the word about us as a resource. So, what’s been the impact 13 Reasons Why?


  • About 3.0% of our conversations have directly mentioned the show since the release on March 31st.
  • 67% of these texters are messaging into Crisis Text Line for the first time.

Bottomline: thanks to this show, we are helping a lot more new people.


65% of 13 Reasons Why texters shared something with us that they have never shared with anyone else..

The top three issues they mention are depression, suicidal ideation, and family/friend issues.

II. Org News

In the press.

We hosted our first LGBTQ Media Day on 6/19. It was like speed dating, but for journalists and experts to do mini interviews (10 minutes each). The goal? To get more media coverage on LGBTQ mental health during Pride as one step towards combating stigma. Check out the first of many articles to come out of the event in Psychology Today and Greatist .

Check out this release on our partnership with California Community Colleges.

Youtuber Jess Conte gives a sweet shout-out to Crisis Text Line in her video on bullying and high school advice 16:49 (towards the end, at the 14:45 mark!)

Reid Hoffman’s podcast Master’s of Scale featuring our CEO, Nancy, on grit and building three epic orgs.

C. Meet our team! Crisis Text Line staff is often out talking about data, tech and all things mental health.

4/22-23: Data Scientist, Nitya Kanuri, will be speaking at the Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation conference in New Haven, CT.

4/27: CEO and Founder, Nancy Lublin, will be speaking at PitchLab in NYC. Tickets available here. Use our ticket promo code: "pitchlabfriends" for 20% off.

4/27-28: AAS 50th Annual Conference in Phoenix, AZ. Chief Data Scientist, Bob Filbin and Supervisor, Jen James, will be presenting

5/2-3: Data Scientist, Nitya Kanuri, is speaking at Health Data Exploration Project's Third Annual Health Data Exploration Network Meeting & Data Dive: Promoting Social Justice in the Use of Personal Health Data at UCSD.

5/6: Data Scientist, Nitya Kanuri, is speaking at Computing and Mental Health, Computer Human Interaction in Denver, CO.

D. Partnerships!

We’re psyched to be working with A Voice for the Innocent and Vans Warped Tour! Crisis Text Line will be featured at each show during the two month long summer tour. Think you might be a good potential partner? Email Liz:

Our partners, the San Francisco Giants, featured Crisis Text Line at their game vs. the San Diego Padres on Sunday, April 30! Check out the beautiful SF AT&T park and stop by the Community Clubhouse to learn more about Crisis Text Line. You can buy tickets here.

Bob Filbin

Chief Data Scientist

Random fact about me: Last weekend, I went to NH to see my family. My parents informed me that the hot topic of conversation with their neighbors was, when will the ice melt off the nearby lake? And thus, I had an opportunity to discuss predictive modeling with my family. (Since then, the results are in: we did predict correctly to the day.)

1. Ask Bob - 3/27/17

Immigration. Has all the talk in the media and the political climate affected everyday Americans?

Talk of immigration has been slowly increasing over the past 12 months, taking a BIG jump around the election.

Over the last year, 1.2% of our conversations contained some mention of immigration; this number doubled to 2.2% of all conversations around the November election.

“Hurt,” “hate,” and “scared” are the top three emotions mentioned in these conversations.

Immigration related conversations contain a higher prevalence of family issues (12% higher than average), isolation (9% higher than average), anxiety (7% higher than average), and depression (7% higher than average).

II. Heroes

Rainy Roth has been a volunteer for over a year and just became a Level 5 Crisis Counselor--which means she’s handled over 1,000 conversations!

How did you learn about Crisis Text Line?

I first learned about Crisis Text Line from a Facebook post. I thought it would be an incredible volunteer activity I could do from my teeny, tiny town (population 943).

What is your favorite thing about being a Crisis Counselor?

My favorite thing about being a Crisis Counselor, oddly enough, are the active rescues. The moment the texter responds with, "they're here" is the time you realize that you helped someone get the help they need. It's not only about saving their life for me; it's about letting them know that people care.

What is the best thing you've learned as a Crisis Counselor?

I think the best thing I have learned from being a Crisis Counselor is to never make assumptions. Someone who starts the conversation with "my mom made me eat broccoli today" will usually start to open up and reply with, "oh, and I self harmed and I can't stop." It is usually those openings that lead to deeper conversations.

III. Org News

Facebook Messenger. Facebook users can now connect with a live, trained Crisis Counselor right through Facebook Messenger! Full announcement here . And, check out these awesome posts from Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg .

In the press.

Mashable wrote an article about how we used machine learning to predict high risk texters.

Libby Craig (our Bay Area Director) was included in a great CNN piece on depression in Silicon Valley.

D. Meet our team! Crisis Text Line staff is often out talking about data, tech and all things mental health.

3/31-4/8: (y)ourstory with the Francesca Harper Project at Harlem Stage. Coach Coe Bethea will be performing a piece inspired by Crisis Text Line.

4/20: Vanity Fair Founders Fair in NYC. Founder and CEO, Nancy Lublin, will join Jessi Hempel (Wired) and Caterina Fake (Founder, Flickr, Findery, and seed funder of Etsy) on a panel titled, “Re-Start Me Up: Confessions of Serial Entrepreneurs”.

4/27-28: AAS 50th Annual Conference in Phoenix, AZ. Chief Data Scientist, Bob Filbin and Supervisor, Jen James, will be presenting (and making an exciting announcement!)

III. How You Can Help

Perks. We love giving nice things to our volunteers! Gift certificates, samples, tickets, etc. Got leads? Email

West Coast is the best coast. We need Crisis Counselors in those time zones (especially Hawaii and Alaska) to help with overnight texters. Got friends or family out there? Nudge them to apply to volunteer with us.

Spread the word. This video created by Dose and posted on Facebook is pretty terrific. Please share it widely.

I. Ask Bob 2/24/17

Next week, our partners at NEDA are leading National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Our data team took a look at some of the trends we see around eating disorders:

Texters who mention eating disorders also tend to talk about (in order of relevance):

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Self-harm
  • Anxiety
  • Suicide

Nationally, talk about eating disorders peaks on Tuesdays and Sundays 8PM - 10PM

On a state level, texters in AR, NJ, and ME mention eating disorders at the highest rates

III. Org News

C. Some big partnerships! We’ve recently partnered with AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). AFSP will be using Crisis Text Line as their preferred crisis text service, promoting it through both digital and on the ground events. Are you a part of a school system, city/state government or national organization? Are you a content creator or part of a media outlet? Partner with us! Email Liz:


I. Ask Bob - 1/27/17

Have a data question? Email our Chief Data Scientist:

77% of our texters are under the age of 25. What do we know about them?


  • Gender. 76% of texters under 25 identify as female, 14% as male, and 10% as other. Texters over 25 are more likely to identify as male (18%) and less likely to identify as other (6%).
  • Sexual Orientation. Texters under 25 are less likely to identify as heterosexual (52% vs. 69%) and are more likely to identify as bisexual (24% vs. 16%) and pansexual (12% vs. 5%).
  • Race. Young texters are more likely to identify as being of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin (16% vs. 11%) and less likely to identify as white (66% vs. 73%).


  • Severity. Nearly 25% of our conversations with young texters contain suicidal thoughts.
  • Sharing something for the first time. A whopping 67% of texters under 25 are more likely to share something with us that they’ve never told anyone else.

II. Heroes

Scott Wentworth is a Crisis Counselor and a Youth Advisory Council member.

How did you learn about Crisis Text Line?

I found out about Crisis Text Line during my first year in college about three years ago. I had a lot going on in my life at the time, and I was in a rather dark place. I searched online for something and found Crisis Text Line. When I later found out they were accepting applications for volunteers, I applied, and here I am.

What is your favorite thing about being a Crisis Counselor?

Things like suicide and mental illness have had an immense, and profound affect on my life and the lives of those around me. My favorite thing about being a Crisis Counselor is having the ability to help people in their darkest moments.

What is the best thing you've learned as a Crisis Counselor?

Simply listening can really help. I now see that many people just want somebody to listen, instead of giving advice.

III. Org News

Follow us! We’re using six social media platforms for news, updates, and insights:


C. Some big partnerships!

Keyword Partners. We’ve recently partnered with the Mayor's Office in Los Angeles, PennState University, and Lookout Mountain Community Services in Georgia.

Content Partners. We’ve launched content partnerships with The Mighty, Thrive Global, and SoulPancake, helping them to better support their communities.

Are you a part of a school system, city/state government or national organization? Are you a content creator or part of a media outlet? Partner with us! Email Liz:

D. Crisis Trends V2. Crisis Trends V2 is live! This version allows you to view (on your phone!) the location, day of week, time of day, accompanying issues, and words most associated with specific issues, by state. Whoa! Check it out at


I. Ask Bob. 11/25/16

One in six of our texters (17%) is of college age. Some more scoop:


Gender. 73% identify as female, 17% as male, 10% other.

Sexual orientation. 55% identify as heterosexual, 20% as bi-sexual, 7% gay or lesbian, 18% other.

Race. 71% identify as White, 15% as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish Origin, 11% identify as Black or African American, 6% Asian, 4% American Indian.


Here are the top issues texters in college face, according to the % of conversations in which the issue is mentioned:

  • Depression: 39%
  • Anxiety: 38%
  • Suicidal Ideation: 24%
  • Family Issues: 24%
  • Romantic Relationships: 17%
  • Isolation: 12%
  • Friend Issues: 11%
  • Self Harm: 11%


Day of Week. Volume for texters mentioning college peaks on Monday, and tails off over the week.

Time of Day. The peak time of day for conversations is night time, 9pm - 2am.

III. Org News

A. Post Election. The entire country was feeling a lot of feels. We saw a 4x increase in volume in the days following the election. The words “election” and “scared” were the top two things being mentioned by texters. The most common association with “scared” was “LGBTQ.”

How did we handle it? We rallied! Our community of trained volunteer Crisis Counselors are incredible. Despite the increase in volume, we actually saw a 2 percentage point increase in satisfaction ratings (a whopping 88% of texters said that connecting with us was helpful.) And, we actually saw a 3 percentage point increase in speed. We were able to help 91% of texters in under 5 five minutes--including “high severity” texters connecting with a human in an average 39 seconds.


I. Ask Bob. 7/29/16

Have a data question? Email our Chief Data Scientist:

On July 15th, Crisis Text Line passed 20 million messages exchanged with texters in crisis. That’s less than three years since our launch. AMAZING. What else do we know about these 20 million messages???

Top 5 Issues:

Depression: 25% of conversations
Anxiety: 20%
Family Issues: 16%
Romantic Relationships: 15%
Suicidal Ideation: 20% (this used to be #3; it just became #2)

Active Rescues: 3,171

% Texters by Time of Day (EST):

12am - 04am: 22% (Almost 1/4 of our texters are in crisis late night!)
04am - 08am: 6%
08am - 12pm: 9%
12pm - 04pm: 15%
04pm - 08pm: 18%
08pm - 12am: 30%

What was our 20 millionth message? “Hello” (no period). From a first time texter.

In the office, on July 15th, it was our version of a New Year’s countdown:

3:39p - So close
4:02p - The last thousand
4:09p - 840
4:28p - 443
4:46p - Boom! 20,000.060

II. Heroes

Nancy Denburg is a Crisis Counselor on Thursday nights. Nancy shared her experience as a 78 year old Crisis Counselor with CNN this week discussing her initial concerns about her age and the technology and how she overcame.

"How could I, at 77, begin to understand the psyche of teenagers and younger people? I felt that [Crisis Text Line] probably would not be interested in someone as old as me," said Denburg. "Then, I had this epiphany: They don't really know how old I am."

III. Org News

Wow, 3!

We’re turning 3 on Monday! (8/1/16) For our birthday, we’re asking our friends to celebrate by recruiting 3 friends. Our volunteers provide free, 24/7 crisis support--- all from their couch! Apply here!

The Crisis Text Line Blog

There’s so much happening here. So, we launched a blog!

More new hires!

Elizabeth Sweezey Morrell, Crisis Counselor Advocate
Rachel Stephens, Director, Community
Max Kamowski, Supervision

Interested in applying or know someone who might be? Learn more and apply here.

Bob Filbin
Chief Data Scientist

Random fact about me: I went to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios, Florida last weekend. Highlights include drinking butterbeer, eating strawberry peanut butter ice cream (a Harry Potter speciality), and riding 17 rides in 10 hours. Here’s when my sugar craze reached it’s peak and me loitering outside Zonkos Joke Shop:
Source: Email alert


Young people are increasingly turning to their phones to find support in the midst of a crisis.

Two and a half years later, it’s the loneliness of the kids that still gets to Lisa Qvistgaard.

It was loneliness, particularly within teenagers, that first led Qvistgaard to become a volunteer crisis counselor with the Crisis Text Line. Witnessing the challenges her own teenage daughter was going through, she imagined the lives of kids with similar mental health struggles who didn’t have the means to pay a therapist and started searching for a way to make it better. That’s when she saw a news story about Crisis Text Line.

Now, four times per week, for an hour at a time, Qvistgaard logs on from her Davis, California, home and takes text messages from people—mostly young people—who are in crisis. The subject matter of the texts spans the gamut, from expressions of school or workplace anxiety to suicidal thoughts to reports of rape or sexual assault.

The people on the other end often have nowhere else to turn, so they punch 741-741 into their phones and send a text message to the anonymous, faceless counselors of Crisis Text Line.

“It breaks my heart just how alone so many of these kids are,” Qvistgaard says. “Either they have no one to talk to about this or they’re afraid to burden their parents with their problems. There are so many of them.”

The ranks are growing rapidly.

In 2015, Crisis Text Line had about 600 counselors fielding messages from around the country. By the end of 2017, that number had ballooned to nearly 4,000 counselors. In its first four years, it exchanged more than 62 million messages. The Crisis Text Line leadership expects that number to double in 2018. Of its interactions, Crisis Text Line co-founder Nancy Lublin says that more than 75 percent were initiated by people under the age of 25; more than 10 percent were under the age of 13.

“There have been a handful of eye-opening things that we’ve learned,” Lublin explains. “The growth was not something I really expected.”

Lublin and co-founder Stephanie Shih started Crisis Text Line while working together on another national nonprofit,, which helps young people organize volunteer campaigns. Shih received a text message one night in 2011 from a teenage volunteer who said she was the victim of an ongoing sexual assault.

Unsure of what to do, Shih began a dialogue. She determined that the girl was not in immediate danger, encouraged her to reach out to a national rape hotline and, ultimately, helped her get connected.

The experience sparked an idea for Shih and Lublin: a text-based option for reporting mental health issues. A little more than two years later, Crisis Text Line was up and running.

“Texting feels familiar to us, and it’s less personal,” Lublin says, explaining why she thinks the service has been so popular. “You never have to see a face. There’s no judgment. You have an opportunity to put your words together and say exactly what you want to say in a way that you can’t always do verbally. And now, it’s simply a way that we all communicate.”

Someone to Listen

The people on the receiving end of these millions of texts are trained crisis counselors who volunteer, like Qvistgaard, to answer the desperate messages that pour into Crisis Text Line. The counselors, who usually answer messages from their homes, are not licensed. Most of them have no background in mental health, but none of that is required to do the job.

“Our objective during an interaction is to take a person from hot to cool calm,” says Dr. Shairi Turner, a Harvard-trained doctor and Crisis Text Line’s chief medical officer. “We’re very clear about our role. We are not long-term care. We have a bank of referrals to send people so they can receive help on a steady basis. Our goal is to work through a crisis.”

That is not to say that volunteers are untrained. Qvistgaard found the 36-hour training course to be thorough, and she says it prepared her for most of the interactions she’s faced. The training includes dozens of examples from past exchanges between texters and counselors and tips for improving upon those exchanges. Each counselor-in-training is also expected to monitor a number of live exchanges. Crisis Text Line performs a background check on counselors, and all applicants undergo a personality test to gauge their compatibility with the job.

And counselors are never working alone. According to Qvistgaard, a supervisor monitors all conversations and can be alerted if there is trouble or if a counselor simply gets stuck in a conversation. Counselors can also seek help through an online forum and, while they can’t see the phone number or the location the message comes from (messages filter through an anonymizing platform), supervisors can access the information if a crisis escalates.

“If there is ever an emergency situation, we would dispatch the police,” Turner says. “This again goes back to understanding our role. Our entire focus is moving out of that crisis situation, allowing the person to talk through it. Most often, that’s all anyone wants—someone to listen.”

Serving the Underserved

In the United States today, people who are trained to listen are in short supply. The Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2010 found that nearly 90 million Americans lived in an area with a shortage of mental health services. In addition, mental health care is often very expensive, some treatments are not covered by traditional insurance and there is a stigma that often deters people from seeking help.

This scarcity is particularly felt by young people who live in rural areas, where many health care options are limited, especially mental health services.

“We tend to skew young and rural among our most frequent users,” Lublin says. “If you research the areas, it’s not hard to understand why. Rural teens experience the same mental health issues and the same trauma; they just have no outlet for treatment.”

Access to care is a problem for minors across the United States. In 2017, a survey of young people with major depression conducted by Mental Health America found that only 23.4% of them received consistent treatment (7 or more visits a year with a mental health professional). And 63% received no mental health treatment at all. Even teens covered by insurance aren't guaranteed treatment—and they're certainly not guaranteed adequate treatment.

“If I didn’t have the means, I’m not sure what I would do for my daughter, but I know that it is incredibly expensive,” Qvistgaard says. “When I think about the kids, and their parents, who don’t have the means, it breaks my heart to consider that hopeless feeling, because there is nowhere to turn.”

Our entire focus is moving out of that crisis situation,
allowing the person to talk through it. Most often, that’s all anyone wants—someone to listen.

A Tool for Schools

It often lands in the laps of teachers and administrators to serve as a first line of defense when it comes to spotting minors in a crisis situation—from catching early signs of bullying, to noticing that top students are suddenly slacking off, to witnessing emotional outbursts.

“I tell teachers that when a student is acting out, they should take a step back and consider what’s going on, what’s the bigger picture,” Turner says. “That child has typically endured some level of trauma and is struggling to deal with it.”

The problem, of course, is what concerned teachers and school administrators should do when they suspect a student is struggling with anxiety or depression or is the victim of bullying. It’s clearer in situations in which there is an apparent danger; educators have a duty to report that to the local authorities. But more and more schools and districts are relying on Crisis Text Line as a way to help students who fall into the gray area. A number of schools have placed the 741-741 number on the back of student ID cards, and they’ve pushed the effort through local media outlets.

Bring the Crisis Text Line into your Classroom

Downloading and displaying this poster from Crisis Text Line can ensure that students in your classroom know this resource exists—and know how to reach out.

“Teachers know that this is a problem, and they know that some kids need help,” says Qvistgaard, who was responsible for getting Davis-area schools to place the Crisis Text Line number on their ID cards. “Parents ask me for the number all the time, too, because they’re also concerned about their kids. A lot of the kids don’t want to talk to adults that they know, especially their parents. Either they’re embarrassed or they’re afraid they’re burdening them.”

So Crisis Text Line fills the gap, providing a convenient, anonymous option for young people. But sometimes it becomes a bit too easy and, instead of a serving as a short-term solution, Crisis Text Line becomes a substitute for the long-term help that a client truly needs.

“We do have to cut people off,” says Turner, who notes there’s a detailed protocol for how to respond to users who overuse the line and connect them to the care they need. “That’s obviously a tough situation, but we can’t allow it, because it’s not helping anyone. That’s not what we’re here to do and we know it.”

And the counselors at Crisis Text Line know it, too.

“Crisis Text Line offers an alternative—an anonymous, non-judgmental stranger to just listen and be on their side,” Qvistgaard says. “Just let them calm down a little. That’s what we do.”

Moon is an award-winning columnist and investigative reporter working in Montgomery.

Texting Trends

The success of Crisis Text Line has been somewhat bittersweet for co-founder Nancy Lublin.

After all, the rapid growth indicates huge numbers of troubled Americans searching for someone to hear them out. That’s a sad reality that Lublin admits has caught her by surprise.

But on the other hand, Crisis Text Line’s makeup—with thousands of volunteer counselors taking in messages from all over the country—presents Lublin, a self-professed data lover, with an opportunity to provide hard facts for a complicated issue that is usually discussed in broad, general terms.

“One of the roles that we see for ourselves here is a real-time data center,” Lublin says. “We have the means because of our unique positioning to gather data that has never before been compiled.”

Lublin is not talking about personal data, and she stresses that Crisis Text Line is completely anonymous and will remain so. But all of the non-identifiable information about a message sender is gathered and entered into the database—everything from the area code where the message originated and reason for contact to basic demographic data like age, gender and race.

The database has allowed Crisis Text Line, which has several interactive maps on its webpage displaying the gathered data, to collect some unique information—information that can allow policymakers to make informed decisions. Currently, Crisis Text Line partners with organizations, such as the National Eating Disorder Association, and government entities to share real-time, evolving data sets that help stakeholders and policymakers better understand the crises they’re working against.

The continually changing data have allowed Crisis Text Line to spot trends that might otherwise go unnoticed. Lublin told The New York Times last year that the release of the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why corresponded with an increase in large groups of teens reporting suicidal thoughts, with 5 percent of users mentioning the show. That sort of information could be vital to school systems and suicide prevention efforts.

It could also be vital to expanding mental health care resources for low- and middle-income Americans. Some states have already started studying Crisis Text Line’s data, looking for trends and attempting to better understand the problems and how to direct limited resources to the right places.

“We do not see our role here as that of pushing for specific policies. Instead, we believe we can provide good data to those who are in those roles,” Lublin says. “Our goal is a system of mental health care that is based on actual facts.”

Some of those facts have been surprising to Lublin. For example, when she started the service, Lublin believed that the majority of messages from younger people would be related in some way to bullying. That hasn’t been the case. In fact, only around 3 percent of messages are bullying-related. By far the highest numbers are messages related to anxiety—a fact that continues to astound Lublin and her team.

“That kids today have so much anxiety is really something I didn’t see coming, because we just don’t tend to think of kids having adult-level stress like that,” Lublin says.

The other figure that gives Lublin pause: the age of some message senders. This year, Crisis Text Line is expected to exchange more than 50 million messages with people in crisis. More than 10 percent of those messages will be sent by kids 13 years old or younger. And of that group of 13-year-olds, more than 20 percent admit to self-harming.

“I just can’t wrap my head around that, because so many 13-year-olds don’t even have a phone,” Lublin says. “And the prevalence of self-harming was a huge surprise. It’s something you never hear talked about.”

Those numbers are not terribly surprising, though, to one Crisis Text Line executive. Dr. Shairi Turner has spent her professional life working with children who have experienced trauma.

“Unfortunately, the young age is not a surprise, because so many children are being born into homes where mental health issues that have gone untreated are a fact of life,” Turner says.

“These facts say a lot about the state of our mental health services in this country, as does the growth of Crisis Text Line. The demand for these services is there, clearly.”


Data Philosophy

Crisis Text Line was built from the ground up around technology and data with the goal of helping people thrive.

We’ve collected one of the largest health data sets in the world. It’s the only real-time data set of this size in the United States. And it is incredibly diverse–recognizing voices of various genders, ages, races, and ethnicities, etc. Hooray for equitable representation in data sets! (This matters to us. It should matter to everyone!)

Our top goal is to support people in crisis. Everything we do with data drives this goal. We want to put more empathy in the world to help people live their best lives. To achieve this, we use data in two ways: (1) internally, to improve the quality of our service, and (2) externally, to improve the crisis space as a whole.


We find ways in which data can support our Crisis Counselors. They are on the front line, talking with thousands of texters in crisis every day. We use data to help them focus on doing what they do best: talking to texters in crisis. Here are a few ways.

Continuous Improvement of Training

Every day, our data reveals new patterns in what it means to provide effective crisis counseling by text. For example, we’ve found that Crisis Counselors who genuinely identify texter strengths (e.g., “you showed courage texting us.”) achieve higher satisfaction ratings from texters. Our data show that the three most effective terms to use are brave, smart, and proud. (E.g., “That was brave of you to reach out to a friend.”) And in 2018, the word “impressive” surged as an effective word too.

Available to the public, this data updates automatically and shows insights like, which state experiences the most anxiety? Or what’s the worst time of day for substance abuse? In one case, our data showed that LGBTQ issues are lowest on Fridays. There is an LGBTQ organization that we spoke to which only offers texting services on Fridays. We recommended they switch their hours to Mondays! Check out the public data!

Can an Algorithm Prevent Suicide? 11/23/20

The Department of Veterans Affairs has turned to machine-learning to help identify vets at risk of taking their own lives.

At a recent visit to the Veterans Affairs clinic in the Bronx, Barry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, learned that he belonged to a very exclusive club. According to a new A.I.-assisted algorithm, he was one of several hundred V.A. patients nationwide, of six million total, deemed at imminent risk of suicide.

The news did not take him entirely off guard. Barry, 69, who was badly wounded in the 1968 Tet offensive, had already made two previous attempts on his life. “I don’t like this idea of a list, to tell you the truth — a computer telling me something like this,” Barry, a retired postal worker, said in a phone interview. He asked that his surname be omitted for privacy.

“But I thought about it,” Barry said. “I decided, you know, OK — if it’s going to get me more support that I need, then I’m OK with it.”

For more than a decade, health officials have watched in vain as suicide rates climbed steadily — by 30 percent nationally since 2000 — and rates in the V.A. system have been higher than in the general population. The trends have defied easy explanation and driven investment in blind analysis: machine learning, or A.I.-assisted algorithms that search medical and other records for patterns historically associated with suicides or attempts in large clinical populations.

Doctors have traditionally gauged patients’ risks by looking at past mental health diagnoses and incidents of substance abuse, and by drawing on experience and medical instinct. But these evaluations fall well short of predictive, and the artificially intelligent programs explore many more factors, like employment and marital status, physical ailments, prescription history and hospital visits. These algorithms are black boxes: They flag a person as at high risk of suicide, without providing any rationale.

But human intelligence isn’t necessarily better at the task. “The fact is, we can’t rely on trained medical experts to identify people who are truly at high risk,” said Dr. Marianne S. Goodman, a psychiatrist at the Veterans Integrated Service Network in the Bronx, and a clinical professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “We’re no good at it.”

Deploying A.I. in this way is not new; researchers have been gathering data on suicides through the National Health Service in Britain since 1996. The U.S. Army, Kaiser Permanente and Massachusetts General Hospital each has separately developed a algorithm intended to predict suicide risk. But the V.A.’s program, called Reach Vet, which identified Barry as at high risk, is the first of the new U.S. systems to be used in daily clinical practice, and it is being watched closely. How these systems perform — whether they save lives and at what cost, socially and financially — will help determine if digital medicine can deliver on its promise.

“It is a critical test for these big-data systems,” said Alex John London, the director of the Center for Ethics and Policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “If these things have a high rate of false positives, for instance, that marks a lot people at high risk who are not — and the stigma associated with that could be harmful indeed downstream. We need to be sure these risk flags lead to people getting better or more help, not somehow being punished.”

The V.A.’s algorithm updates continually, generating a new list of high-risk veterans each month. Some names stay on the list for months, others fall off. When a person is flagged, his or her name shows up on the computer dashboard of the local clinic’s Reach Vet coordinator, who calls to arrange an appointment. The veteran’s doctor explains what the high-risk designation means — it is a warning sign, not a prognosis — and makes sure the person has a suicide safety plan: that any guns and ammunition are stored separately; that photos of loved ones are visible; and that phone numbers of friends, social workers and suicide hotlines are on hand.

Doctors who have worked with Reach Vet say that the system produces unexpected results, both in whom it flags and whom it does not.

To some of his therapists, Chris, 36, who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, looked very much like someone who should be on the radar. He had been a Marine rifleman and saw combat in three of his four tours, taking and returning heavy fire in multiple skirmishes. In 2008, a roadside bomb injured several of his friends but left him unscathed. After the attack he had persistent nightmares about it and received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress. In 2016, he had a suicidal episode; he asked that his last name be omitted to protect his privacy.

“I remember going to the shower, coming out and grabbing my gun,” he said in an interview at his home near New York City. “I had a Glock 9-millimeter. For me, I love guns, they’re like a safety blanket. Next thing I know, I’m waking up in cold water, sitting in the tub, the gun is sitting right there, out of the holster. I blacked out. I mean, I have no idea what happened. There were no bullets in the gun, it turned out.”

The Five Biggest Myths About Crisis Text Line

Crisis Text Line provides free support at people’s fingertips, 24/7. Anyone in crisis can text us and we’ll support them, from their hot moment to a cool calm.

We are lucky to have good friends: the kind of friends you know always have your back. The kind you feel comfy getting together with, even on a bad hair day. We’re smitten with our friends at AFSP who have welcomed us to this space with open arms. The team at AFSP has been particularly helpful in busting myths for us. So today, I’d like to bust some myths people have about using Crisis Text Line:

1. You have to be suicidal to use a crisis line. Not so! If it’s a crisis to you, it’s a crisis to us. We all have unique triggers, thresholds, and experience. Less than one percent of the people who text us are actively suicidal, help-rejecting, and in need of an active rescue. We’re proud to offer support to every single person who texts 741741. Questioning reaching out? Do it. We’ve got your back.

2. Rapport can’t be created with a stranger over text message. This couldn’t be further from the truth. 66 percent of the people who text us share something with their Crisis Counselor that they’ve never told anyone else. Text is actually extremely effective in crisis counseling because rapport is created quickly. Texting is comfortable for many people. There’s no “like,” or, “um,” or hyperventilation. Usually, by the third message exchanged, we know the issue at hand.

3. Crisis lines are busiest during holidays. Holidays may seem stressful, but our data shows we receive 20 percent fewer texts during holidays.

4. You have to wait a long time to speak to a Crisis Counselor. This might be true for other services, but not at Crisis Text Line. We don’t take you in the order you text in. Rather, we take you by risk, kind of like in an emergency room. If you have a sprained pinky finger, you’ll wait while the person with the gunshot wound goes into the operating room. When you text us, an algorithm assesses your risk based on our present collection of messages and places you into a queue. So, if you’re actively suicidal, our Crisis Counselors will be in touch with you before they take the person who simply feels down and needs a listening ear. In fact, we connect with all incoming suicidal texters in 13 seconds on average.

5. You will be passed off to other resources. The last thing we want you to feel is dismissed. Most of the time, our texters simply need an empathetic ear. Sometimes, people need more information on a specific issue to take their next steps, in which case we point them in the right direction. One of our favorite resources for people who are texting us because they’re concerned about suicidal loved ones (that’s right – you can text us if you’re worried about someone else) is AFSP’s list of risk factors and warning signs.

Boom! Myths busted. I hope the next time you or a friend is in crisis, you’ll text SOS to 741741.

Thirteen Reasons Why We're Here For You

In this modern world, we’ve all become accustomed to planning our time around the newest binge-worthy Netflix series drop. As the ever-popular “13 Reasons Why” releases its newest season, we want to make sure you know we’ve got your back. Read on for thirteen reasons why we’re here for you!

Reason 1: Reaching out for help should be easy and accessible. We’re the first national crisis support center available via text message. No need for awkward phone calls—we support you at your fingertips.

Reason 2: There are so many things that could cause someone to feel in crisis. That’s why we define a crisis as anything that’s a crisis to YOU. The top five issues people text us about are depression, relationships, anxiety, school, and suicide.

Reason 3: Our future is in good hands. The vast majority of our texters are 25 and under. They’re opening up about some of the hardest things in their lives and squashing stigma along the way. We’re their biggest cheerleaders.

Reason 4: When you need help, you need it NOW. That’s why we aim to respond to everyone who texts us in under five minutes.

Reason 5: We’re not *just* suicide prevention. We’re here to help with anything. And, ICYMI, we have a pretty good track record of saving the day.

Reason 6: Everyone should be able to save lives. Our Crisis Counselors are everybody: your friend, your co-worker, the barista who makes your coffee every morning, even your grandma. No joke—our oldest Crisis Counselor is 84-years-old and ready to help you process all of the hard stuff.

Reason 7: We’re only six years old and we’ve already processed 100 million messages from texters. Up next? 100 million more and taking the world by storm. We’re already in the UK (85258) and Canada (686868). The total was 117,666,953 on 091519

Reason 8: We go where you need us. 20% of our volume comes from areas with the lowest per capita income in the country—some of the areas historically underserved with mental health support.

Reason 9: Everyone should have someone to listen. 65 percent of texters tell our Crisis Counselors something that they’ve never told anyone else before. Need to share? #741741

Reason 10: We <3 tech and empathic humans. When you text us, you’ll get a response from real, live Crisis Counselors who will message you until you’re in a cool calm.

Reason 11: Safety is our top priority. 99% of the time our Crisis Counselors help texters come up with a plan to stay safe.

Reason 12: We get it—school can be really hard. Even if you don’t go to Liberty High. We see a spike in texters reaching out for support during back to school season. From test anxiety to navigating your social life, 741741 has you covered.

Reason 13: Everyone deserves a friend and nobody should have to deal with the hard stuff alone. We’re all in this big life together. And, we’re here to help. Text SOS to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor.

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