Texting + Crisis Hotline = Crisis Text Line

How does technology change the way we reach out in times of crisis? Would you be more comfortable walking into a local center, calling someone at a hotline, or texting your concerns to someone on the other line?

The New Yorker profiled the Crisis Text Line (C.T.L.), a national, 24/7 crisis-intervention hotline that only communicates with its users (mostly teenagers) via text. While big data is more often associated with big corporations, this nonprofit uses algorithms to extensively analyze its data, including the over 5 million texts it has received in the last couple years. Based on this data, C.T.L. has modified some of its communication techniques away from standard crisis-counselling practice. For example, statements using the first person (“I’m worried about how upset you seem”) are associated with more positive responses than statements without the first person. 

The data points to trends 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. With a larger amount of data, the C.T.L. will be able to show data by zip code without the risk of identifying any single texter.  This amount of data is new to mental health, and the company is committed to drawing meaningful conclusions that would allow serious improvements in how mental health issues are handled and assessed. 

You can apply here to be a counselor. You have to train for 7 weeks and commit to a weekly 4 hour shift for at least a year. 

If you want someone to talk to about any crises or issues, and you prefer text, try it out! You can text “START” to 741-741


Posted on February 9, 2015 .