Texting for help

Partners Post, January 2016

Texting for Help

Two years ago, a young woman in crisis sent the nonprofit DoSomething.org a text message. Her cry for help started a movement that is saving lives today.

Inspired by that troubling text, CEO Nancy Lublin launched Crisis Text Line to connect people by text with crisis counselors. In less than two years, it had responded to 6.5 million text messages — helping people with issues ranging from eating disorders to family crises to suicide and depression.

"We get things like, 'I want to die. I have a bottle of pills on the desk in front of me,'" Lublin said in a November 2015 TED Talk. "And so the crisis counselor says, 'How about you put those pills in the drawer while we text?' And they go back and forth for a while. And the crisis counselor gets the girl to give her her address, because if you're texting a text line, you want help."

"The beautiful thing about Crisis Text Line is that these are strangers counseling other strangers on the most intimate issues, and getting them from hot moments to cold moments," Lublin said. "It's exciting."

Crisis Text Line has also collected reams of data, allowing analysts to determine which words are likely to signal specific issues such as substance abuse or cutting. Crisis counselors use the data to predict what a texter needs and to ask targeted questions.

Watch Lublin's TED talk to learn more. People in crisis can text 741741 to talk to someone for free 24/7.


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