In a year of COVID-19 death tolls, raging protests and polarizing politics, Americans reached out to Crisis Text Line for support. They talked about everything from job stress and school anxiety to relationships and self-harm.
If you’re in a crisis, text GOT5 or Got5U to 741741 to connect with a trained Crisis Counselor. There’s no wrong way to start a conversation.
Crisis Counselors are Volunteers
Crisis counseling can help you sort through whatever is going on in your life. It may be a difficult family situation, feelings of depression or anxiety, or trouble at work or school. It can even be a mental health crisis like suicidal thoughts or a substance use disorder.
A counselor will help you get to a cool place by listening, empathizing and problem-solving with you. They will not judge you, and they will contact emergency services in less than 1% of conversations. They will also refer you to local resources and support groups.
Volunteering for Crisis Text Line provides an opportunity to help others in times of need, and to improve your own self-awareness, emotional intelligence and empathy. Becoming a Crisis Counselor is a rewarding experience. You will also learn tools to cope with stress and negative emotions through positive coping strategies and effective communication. There is a lot of support for volunteers, including training and ongoing supervision.
You’ll Get Connected
When someone texts ‘Got5’ or ‘Got5U’ to the number 741741, they are automatically connected with a trained Crisis Counselor. A counselor will then invite the person to text back about what is causing them distress. They will ask questions and listen, allowing the person to share at their own pace. The counselor will provide resources and help the person find the next step to addressing their crisis. This could be getting a referral to see a mental health professional or practicing how to talk with a loved one about their feelings.
This type of outreach via text messaging is important, says Trujillo, especially because it meets young people where they are. Busy schedules, jobs and school can leave young people feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope. In addition, they may not be comfortable asking for help over the phone.
You’ll Get Help
After you text HELLO, a trained Crisis Counselor will connect with you and begin a back-and-forth conversation. You can share as much or as little as you want, and the Crisis Counselor will always listen to you and be supportive. The goal is to help you get to a calmer place, which may involve the counselor sharing resources or just listening. The conversation will end when you and the Crisis Counselor both feel like it’s time to stop.
The volunteers who work on the service go through rigorous training and must pass a background check before they can start working with callers. They are also monitored by full-time supervisors with degrees in counseling or social work. They’re taught to empathize with texters rather than interrogate them and to encourage them to suss out their own solutions by prompting them to identify options and weigh pros and cons, Raja says.
Besides helping people who are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, Crisis Text Line is also looking at ways to expand its services for other mental health issues. For instance, the company is working on interventions for people in grief or with relationship problems.
You’ll Get Support
A crisis text line counselor will respond within minutes of receiving a text, de-escalating the situation and helping the person create a safety plan. In less than 1% of the conversations, emergency services are involved, but this is only in cases where the texter is actively trying to harm themselves or others and is unable to separate themselves from their means for self-harm.
While many people who use text lines are in a life-threatening crisis, it’s important to remember that these resources can help anyone in any kind of mental health crisis. This may include things like stress, depression or thoughts of suicide.
Using these resources is completely anonymous, so you can reach out to them while at school or work, or even while sitting in the waiting room of your doctor’s office. The service is free, though standard messaging rates may apply based on your mobile phone plan. It’s not a replacement for your doctor, therapist or best friend — but it might be the help you need.