By Karen Rempel
The Crisis Text Line is a free service founded by West Village resident Nancy Lublin. Nancy explains, “People in crisis can text for help just like you would text a friend. We wanted to make it fast and easy. So you text 741741 and you’re connected to a trained, empathetic crisis counselor on the other side. 24/7.”
The non-profit Crisis Text Line launched in August of 2013, and soon it was available in all 295 area codes in the United States. It also operates in Canada and the UK (with a unique text number in each country), and is about to launch in Ireland, Australia, South Africa, and Latin America. Nancy says, “Our hope is to be in fifteen countries in the next three years. We just had really exciting news coverage because the Royal Family were the secret backers to bring us to the UK. We’ve been working with them for about three years. Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, made a video telling people about the Crisis Text Line and asking people to become volunteers.”
Nancy adds, “I think mental health is one of the epidemics of our lifetime. If you look at the numbers on suicide and on anxiety, our texters skew young, poor, and diverse. They’re people who wouldn’t otherwise get help. I think my favorite part is being a volunteer myself on the platform. It’s strangers talking to strangers in their darkest moments. Sixty-five percent of texters say they’ve shared something they’ve never shared with another human being. So they’re first time, coming out, or they’re saying that they hear voices, or they’re just able to share. I take that responsibility really seriously, being there for somebody in that kind of a moment.”
Crisis Text Line screens and trains volunteers online. Volunteers reply to texts at home, using a laptop, during times that work for them. Nancy says, “It turns out to be wonderful for introverts, for people who don’t have a lot of time, for older people. We really love our older volunteers, because they’re disproving myths about older people and computer usage.”
To be a volunteer you have to be capable of coming to every conversation with empathy. Nancy explains, “We also screen for bias. One of the amazing things about Crisis Text Line is that more than a third of our texters are diverse, racially, and about half of our texters identify as LGBTQIA.”
Supervisors, who are paid, full-time staff with a degree in a related field—usually social work, watch all the conversations, so if something goes wrong they can jump in. They’re the ones who call 911 when there’s an emergency situation. There’s also a chat function where crisis counselors can talk to each other to give support.
Nancy adds, “We’d love West Village volunteers. I’ve been here for twenty-three years. It’s always been a loving and progressive community and I think they’d make great crisis counselors.”
For more information, or to volunteer, go to crisistextline.org.
US text #: 741741
Canadian text #: 686868
Date founded: August 2013
Texts as of 5 PM May 21, 2019: 105,380,330
Top 3 US states texting due to anxiety or stress: PR, NH, CT
Top 3 US states texting due to crises related to suicide: MT, UT, ID
Source: “Crisis Trends.” www.crisistrends.org. Crisis Text Line, May 21 2019. Web.