The New Yorker Highlights the Power of Crisis Text Line

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DoSomething.org’s Crisis Text Line has received great coverage from many reputable publications such as The New York Times and The Atlantic. Now, The New Yorker joins the list of publications commending the work done by this DoSomething.org-launched organization. The story gives an in-depth overview of how Crisis Text Line works, as well as some great insights into the world of text messaging, teenagers, and crisis handling tactics.

How Crisis Text Line started and how it works

Crisis Text Line - SMS ProgramDoSomething.org regularly uses text messaging as part of their campaigns. In 2011, an employee at DoSomething.org received text messages from a teenager in trouble. She shared the messages with DoSomething.org’s founder, Nancy Lublin. Lublin realized that there was a huge societal blind spot for teenagers in crisis.

That realization gave birth to Crisis Text Line, “the first and only national, 24/7 crisis-intervention hotline to conduct its conversations (the majority of which are with teenagers) exclusively by text message.” Teenagers who are in crisis can text the hotline at any time to chat anonymously with a trained counselor. These teenagers receive real-time support for talking through their crisis, finding proper resources, and getting them to a safe zone.

Why text messaging works so well to help teens in need

Crisis Text Line - SMS ProgramText messaging is the de-facto method of communication for teenagers. The average teenager sends almost two thousand text messages per month and uses text messaging to speak with their friends more so than in phone calls, over email, on instant messaging platforms, or in face-to-face interactions.

But teenagers also have a strange mix of freedom. They can virtually text anytime and anywhere, but are often afraid of voicing their worries due to fear of social repercussions or even parents being in the room and listening in. An anonymous text message hotline offers an accessible channel for communication allows teenagers to speak up when they otherwise may be silenced.

People are also more willing to share information through a text message that they are reluctant to divulge in real life. Text messaging affords a screen of anonymity that lends itself to fuller disclosure. Indeed, a study at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research found that people are “more likely to disclose sensitive information via text messages than in voice interviews.”

The article also points out that the act of writing a text message in and of itself may be helpful: “A substantial body of research confirms the efficacy of writing as a therapeutic intervention,” it notes. Text messages can act as a “behavioral buffer” between a person and their intense feelings by providing a distance that is lacking in a phone call or face-to-face conversation.

Crisis Text Line’s best practices for helping teens in crisis

The New Yorker article is a valuable read in and of itself – but it also highlights some of CTL’s best practices for responding to users via text message. Here are three tips that can apply to any organization’s text messaging campaigns.

Crisis Text Line - SMS Program

  • Type carefully. All text messaging campaigns can stand by this advice. While typos may be acceptable in personal text messages between friends, they can undermine the sense of authority that people are looking for on the receiving end of your organization’s text messages.
  • Use appropriate language. Avoid vernacular or jargon, since people are less likely to trust you if they don’t understand what you are saying. Your supporters joined your mobile list for a specific reason, after all – not to find new friends.
  • Sound sincere and authentic. Nobody wants to talk to a robot. With text messaging, it’s important to sound like a real person and not like an automated machine. Making your texts sound sincere and authentic shows that you are engaged and that you care about your subscribers.

It’s safe to say that Crisis Text Line has revolutionized the crisis management industry. By using a form of communication that teens trust, it has created a powerful service that is helping thousands of young adults across the country. It’s an admirable use of text messaging technology, and its success has instigated the creation of similar crisis and therapy text lines all across the country.

If you’d like to learn more about Crisis Text Line, or how you can use text messaging to make a difference, please contact us at sales@mobilecommons.com.

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