Teenagers in the United States are never far from their cellphones. The average U.S. teen sends and receives 3,000 to 4,000 text messages a month, but good luck trying to get them to answer the phone when you call. Now, there is a national crisis text line – the first of its kind – to meet them where they are, connecting in a language they feel comfortable with.
With Crisis Text Line (CTL), receiving support for a mental or behavioral health challenge is now just a text message away. CTL is a free text line which provides 24/7 emotional support for anyone in crisis. Unlike other national crisis hotlines, CTL conducts all of its conversations through text message. By simply texting 741-741 anywhere in the United States, individuals experiencing anything from anxiety to abuse can gain access to a qualified crisis counselor in a safe and anonymous setting. And they can do it from the comfort of their own home or even their school cafeteria. This freedom allows crisis counselors to meet individuals where they are as they guide them from moment of panic, anxiety, or fear to a moment of “cool calm” without the constraints of more structured forms of therapy.
According to CEO Nancy Lublin, CTL was created to fill a deep need that she saw while working for DoSomething.org, another non-profit geared towards young adults. DoSomething.org began harnessing the power of text message as their main form of communication for encouraging teenagers to get involved in local community service projects. They were incredibly successful at reaching teenagers through this medium but were surprised to receive some texts back saying things like: “I feel so alone, I don’t want to live anymore” or “my so-called boyfriend won’t stop drinking.” Lublin knew that she had to do something to help these young adults.
Since its inception in 2013, CTL has received over 10 million text messages. Teenagers who are virtually mute over the phone or in person, become open and honest about their issues through this medium. This high-tech support for teens in crisis is changing the way we provide crisis intervention to young adults, and Lublin sees even more potential for the service. “I want to use tech and data to make the world a better place,” Lublin says. CTL has aggregated and published data from the program to educate the public about crisis trends. For example, CTL sees a high volume of texts about bullying during lunchtime, and concerns about eating disorders first thing on Monday morning. This data has the potential to drastically improve our ability to understand and support teenagers in crisis.
To explore these trends further, go to http://www.crisistextline.org/trends/ or watch the TED Talk here:
or go to this link: