"If you ever doubt how strong you are, we got you."
Knight Foundation [Creative Commons]Have you ever needed support without knowing where to turn? Have you struggled with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue, and been too afraid to talk about it with those who know you? When Nancy Lublin ran the nonprofit DoSomething.org, which helps mobilize youth to create social change, sometimes youth texted in not about how to volunteer, but about needing help themselves. This was a wakeup call for Lublin. Students can be heroes, but students--and anyone--also need heroes. The world can be a scary place, and depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are common among teens. In fact, for this age group, suicide in the second leading cause of death. Lublin saw that students felt safe sharing personal struggles through text, and she decided that same format was the perfect way to provide emotional support.
Now, across the United States, Canada, and the U.K., trained volunteers answer anonymous text messages sent to the Crisis Text Line. Since 2013, the text line and its visitors have exchanged 118,072,954 messages, with that number increasing by the minute. Users text in about a variety of issues, including anxiety, suicide, depression, emotional abuse, bullying, self harm, and loneliness.
The Crisis Text Line uses the data it tracks to continue to streamline its service. For instance, the algorithm sorts the urgency of incoming texts by the keywords those texts include. Keywords that indicate suicide move the texter to the front of the line. While many companies use data to help their profits, or to sell that data to others, Lublin publishes the text line’s data on its website. She isn’t interested in making a profit; she’s interested in helping as many people as possible free of charge. She wants schools, communities, and other groups to utilize this information for their own use, so everyone can work together to combat mental health issues and suicide.
The Crisis Text Line is also active in Canada (called Kids Help Phone) and the U.K. (called Shout). It is taking steps to expand to Ireland, Australia, Latin America, and South Africa. With its fast-growing success, it is sure to move to these areas and beyond.
Joi Ito - Flickr [Public domain]I asked Nancy a few questions about heroes and how to support a loved one:
Who are your heroes, and why?
I have always admired Nelson Mandela for his resilience and ability to forgive. His focus on pragmatism? Something I aspire to emulate. I'm also super inspired by Greta Thunberg. Her honesty, clarity of message, and passion--wow.
What is your definition of a hero? Do you see yourself as a hero?
I'm not a hero. I'm just a girl who doesn't have much patience. When I see a problem, I lean in.
Why do you think it’s important for young people to have heroes, and why is it important to support this demographic?
Role models make it easier for us to imagine. Its very helpful to have someone else blaze the trail first. We can see ourselves pursuing the same work. They make the impossible seem possible.
How can a young person best support a friend who is going through a crisis? What are the best and worst things to say?
Our data shows that it is not harmful or suggestive to ask someone if they are thinking about death or dying. In fact, it makes people feel seen and cared for. So if you have a friend you think might be going through something, don't just say, "Hey, I'm here if you need me." That puts the burden on them. Instead say, "Hey, I care about you. Are you thinking dark thoughts?" And if so, encourage them to reach out to Crisis Text Line, a parent, a teacher, a doctor, or another person in their life who can help.
Thank you, Nancy, for embodying and uplifting ordinary heroes doing extraordinary things!
Page created on 9/20/2019 12:42:53 AM
Last edited 8/26/2020 4:15:32 AM