Crisis Text Lines – Your New Friends

Katelyn Fernandez | 10:59 AM

Crisis hotlines have been around for more than 50 years, giving thousands of people the chance to call whenever they were in serious need of advice for personal reasons regarding mental health, suicide, bullying and much more. To put it another way, crisis hotlines are the equivalent of your best friend, someone who you can always turn to at three o'clock in the morning when a war decides to surface in your mind.

In fact, the first "hotline" was created because of war. The Cold War, to be exact. Influenced from the Cuban missile crisis that had taken place the year before, John F. Kennedy established an agreement with Russia to have a telephone hotline in order for communication between the two governments to "speed up" in 1963 ("The U.S.-Soviet "hot line" goes into operation"). Crisis hotlines are now used for offering one-to-one counselling to people all over the globe, functioning every minute and every second of the day by well-trained volunteers and advisors. Today, however, crisis hotlines have emerged into a new form of communication and have reached even greater distances for youth to be able to speak out more often. In the words of Spark's host Nora Young, the traditional telephone hotline has taken a shift in technology to what is now known as crisis texting.

After receiving an unexpected and intense text message while volunteering for DoSomething.org, Nancy Lublin believed a service had to be made for teenagers with a "medium they were familiar with, that they trust and that they were using all the time" (Filbin). And so, Crisis Text Line was born. The 24-hour service allows callers to communicate with a counsellor using text messages rather than voice (Dinakar, Chaney, Lieberman and Blei). Unlike the decline of crisis telephone lines, the new crisis texting service has gained popularity because of its easy accessibility (Filbin). Teenagers can type a quick message on their cellphones wherever and whenever, making it both beneficial for the teen and the text line itself.

In order to improve counselling service, chief data scientist of Crisis Text Line Bob Filbin says they collect and analyze the data from the million text messages received on a daily basis. Crisis Text Line aims to prevent teenage crises through releasing data to the public in hopes new policies and research will be made (Filbin). Although the process is frequently done, personal information from each text message exchanged from a teen to a trained volunteer is still kept confidential, and is only accessed by staff in the company (Filbin).

The existence of crisis hotlines, whether it be through a text or a phone call, has helped teenagers worldwide in dealing with crisis in the past couple of years. Teenagers have now developed a deeper appreciation for the social functionality of SMS (D. Reid & F. Reid,) and despite the negative claims people say about texting, crisis text lines has become yet another advantage of ICTs. At the end of the day, it is not even about the problem itself, but building a relationship and communicating with the person on the other end of the line (Filbin). As human beings, we need someone who will listen to you spilling your heart and soul to every once and awhile, and crisis text lines are always there for you to do so.

If you would like more information on Crisis Text line or would like the opportunity of becoming a volunteer, click here.

Works Cited

Dinakar, Karthik, et al. "Real-time topic models for crisis counseling." Twentieth ACM Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, Data Science for the Social Good Workshop. 2014.

Filbin, B. "Crisis Texting with Bob Filbin." Spark with Nora Young. CBC News, 2015. Web. 13 November 2015.

Reid, Donna J., and Fraser JM Reid. "Text or talk? Social anxiety, loneliness, and divergent preferences for cell phone use." CyberPsychology & Behavior 10.3 (2007): 424-435.

"The U.S.-Soviet "hot line" goes into operation." History.com. History.com, 2010. Web. 13 November 2015.