How Crisis Text Line Helps Those in Crisis
Following recent high-profile deaths by suicide, social networks have been flooded with numbers that people can call or text when they’re feeling suicidal or in crisis.
Social media posts like these have helped a lot of people find the support they need. There have also been some whispers:
“These services don’t do enough to help.”
“Someone who’s depressed doesn’t want to talk to a stranger.”
“This places too much of a burden on people in crisis to save themselves.”
There may be a grain of truth in all of these critiques, as each person’s experience is different. Services like Crisis Text Line still play an important role in suicide prevention.
Who We Are
Crisis Text Line began in 2013 with the goal of providing free, 24/7 support to those who in crisis. Within four months we were receiving texts from all 295 zip codes across the United States (to learn more about our story, check out our website). With over 4,000 Crisis Counselors and over 70 million messages exchanged at the time of writing, we are more prepared than ever to continue supporting those in need.
Why should someone use Crisis Text Line?
Most texters find the conversation helpful.
We may not be the right fit for everyone. However, at the end of each conversation, we ask our texters: Did you find this conversation helpful? Consistently, 86% say yes. Of those who say “no,” most still note a positive mood shift, like “more hopeful” or “less alone.” We aim to meet a high standard of support.
Our goal is to help a texter in crisis get through a hot moment and find a cool calm.
Crisis Text Line is not a replacement for ongoing mental health care. At the core of our mission is empowerment: helping a person in crisis feel like they’re capable of taking the next step to address their issues. This might look like a referral to help them identify service providers in their area. It could be practicing for a difficult conversation with their parents about their mental health needs, or inviting them to consider whether it’s time to make an appointment with a professional to talk about their feelings. A “cool calm” and the next steps after a conversation can look different for different texters.
Crisis Text Line can complement support from friends and family.
If you’re worried about someone in your life, providing them our number can help, but by all means, check in with them! We’re here 24/7, if they don’t yet feel comfortable talking with you about how they’re feeling.
How can I check in with a friend who’s struggling?
- Ask directly if they’re feeling suicidal. Our data shows that the question isn’t suggestive- asking won’t make someone consider suicide if they weren’t already. If they are, assess for risk by asking if they have a plan for how they would do it, the means to carry out that plan, and a timeline of when they might do it.
- You can ask directly how they’ve been feeling. Our approach is to listen without judgment and without providing advice. As a friend, you might be in a better position to provide relevant guidance, but try to hold back unless you’re specifically asked for advice. Simply listening is often enough.
- Reach out to make plans to see each other, or connect online if you’re far apart. Try to find something fun to do, but don’t feel guilty if your friend still feels bad while you’re hanging out. Remember that being with them and being present is enough. Friendship, like crisis intervention services, is not meant to be replacement for ongoing mental health care.
For more guidance, see our blog post on supporting a friend in crisis over text. Does the thought of supporting a friend through a crisis freak you out? You can text in to 741741 for support, too.
Preventing suicide is a community effort. We thank everyone who has helped others get the help they need by sharing us as one of the many resources available.
Cassey Lottman is a software engineer at Crisis Text Line. She got her start with the organization as a volunteer Crisis Counselor, and has handled more than 1,300 conversations with texters in crisis. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.