Crisis Text Line – Connecting People in Crisis to Compassionate Care Through Text

Crisis Text Line

Founded in 2013, Crisis Text Line provides free mental health support via text message. Its volunteer Crisis Counselors have facilitated over 100 million conversations nationwide.

Using data from Crisis Text Line, this study explores distinct classes of users who report suicidality across frequency of conversation and first vs last conversation. Results highlight the need for suicide prevention efforts to be inclusive and responsive to people’s unique needs.

Texting with a Crisis Counselor

Crisis Text Line volunteers from around the country work with people in crisis through anonymous and confidential text messaging. They receive training and support from full-time staff, and use active listening, collaborative problem solving, and safety planning to help individuals in a moment of crisis. The service is available in English, but the organization is working to develop Spanish-language services.

The conversation with a Crisis Counselor typically lasts for about 45 minutes, and is confidential. Individuals are encouraged to share at their own pace, and the counselor will ask questions and empathize. The counselor will also give them options for local resources. The end of the chat is when the responder and the individual feel comfortable deciding that they are in a cool, safe place.

The Steve Fund has developed a special keyword, STEVE, that young people of color can text to connect with a trained Crisis Counselor. The number is free, and will not appear on your phone bill.

Accessing a Counselor

The number 988 is a nationwide, easy-to-remember three-digit dialing code that connects people in crisis to compassionate care through phone and text. This line is a vital part of the national suicide prevention system, and it’s available in every community. People can call the line to get support for any mental health-related crisis, including thoughts of suicide, a serious substance use problem or a panic attack.

They can also call or text their local crisis lines to receive free, 24/7 nonjudgmental support from trained volunteers. These volunteer counselors can help individuals cope with their crisis, and they can refer them to other resources that can provide additional assistance.

Many crisis counseling services are staffed by volunteers, but some require licensed therapists or psychology students. A master’s degree program in counseling usually requires real-life clinical experience, such as a supervised internship or practicum, to prepare students for licensure as professional counselors. Those who want to earn their credentials can enroll in NYU Steinhardt’s CACREP-accredited online counseling master’s program.

Texting with a Counselor in Spanish

Historically, there’s been a lack of representation in the mental health field and many professionals can’t offer care in Spanish. Pitter-Armand says offering the service through WhatsApp can help dismantle entrenched inequities and normalize seeking help.

People in crisis can connect to a counselor through text by sending “HOLA” to 741741 or 442AYUDAME in Whatsapp. Counselors are trained volunteers from around the United States who have completed a free training and are supervised 24/7 by full-time crisis staff.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline announced on Thursday that Spanish-speaking callers can now access call, chat, and text services through the hotline. The service was expanded just days ahead of the one-year anniversary of the 988 Lifeline. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra joined Crisis Text Line, Didi Hirsch, and other 988 Lifeline partners in making the announcement at an event in New York City. The expansion comes as new data shows that individuals in emotional crisis are more likely to be successful in getting help when they can use their preferred language for communication.

Texting with a Counselor in English

For those who don’t want to talk on the phone or just don’t feel safe answering questions over the phone, texting may be the best option. The service is free and confidential, but it requires a certain level of trust because counselors can be anonymous and do not have access to personal information like home addresses or email.

The service offers a 24/7 chat, text and phone line in English (text HEAL to 741-741), as well as a teen line (6-10pm), social media, a message board, a blog and more. It also has translation services for 250 languages for callers who dial in.

During the pandemic, anxiety hit record highs in Crisis Text Line conversations, with counselors fielding messages about a range of concerns, from fear to grief. But even as coronavirus infection rates and hospitalizations have declined, counselors say they are still receiving texts about eating and body image issues, as well as grief and bereavement.