What is the crisis text line (& how it works when you text in)
I’m a big mental health advocate – and if you’ve read the blog before you likely know that. One piece of being a mental health advocate is wanting accessibility to mental health resources for all. Unfortunately, that is something that many people don’t have.
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional, and the information in this blog post should be used however you see fit. If you’re in need of immediate assistance, please call 911 or the suicide hotline listed below. Otherwise, here are some additional resources.
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Online Resources and Finding Help
- Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741 (US number) to be connected with a trained crisis counselor.
- Finally, this is a great page from ‘Everyday Help’ with a ton of resources for mental health assistance such as financial help for therapy and medications, support groups, etc.
Let’s look at some statistics (source: National Alliance on Mental Illness):
*The average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years
*11.3% of U.S. adults with mental illness had no insurance coverage in 2018
*13.4% of U.S. adults with serious mental illness had no insurance coverage in 2018
*60% of U.S. counties do not have a single practicing psychiatrist
Anyone else find these startling?
Why does this matter? Besides the obvious, here are some additional numbers as to what this can translate to:
*Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
*Mood disorders are the most common cause of hospitalization for all people in the U.S. under age 45 (after excluding hospitalization relating to pregnancy and birth)
*Depression and anxiety disorders cost the US economy $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year, $1 trillion lost productivity each year in the global economy.
At risk of being captain obvious, these are some big numbers. But besides from the data, as someone who has dealt with anxiety – even extremely debilitating anxiety – I can’t even imagine not having access to mental health care.
I’ve been on a hunt to try and find free or low cost resources that I can compile in a reference list, but to be honest, that is taking more time than I think it should (due to not a ton of resources out there). I 100% get and feel that mental health professionals should be compensated for their time, so don’t come at me regarding that. But that doesn’t change the fact that I believe mental health care should be more readily available for anyone who needs it.
Stay with me, I promise I have a point. While I was doing research for free or low cost health care, one resource kept coming up at the forefront: Crisis Text Line.
As luck (or divine intervention) would have it, I had worked with someone who works for the Crisis Text Line for a past blog project I called ‘Anxiety Stories’ | Normalizing Anxiety in Today’s World. Enter Briana.
I interviewed Briana a year ago when she shared her anxiety story on the blog. I loved her story and I enjoy her blog and social content and we’ve been following each other on social media since then. She mentioned she worked for Crisis Text Line, and it sparked an idea.
Psst. you can check out her anxiety story here, her blog here, or her Instagram here.
Related post: Your anxiety is lying to you: Here are 8 Lies My Anxiety Tells Me & How I Move Past Them
I think there are a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions regarding reaching out to something like Crisis Text Line. Maybe you’ve felt like what you’re experiencing isn’t ‘severe enough’, or you feel like you don’t want to take up ‘space’ that other people who may be experiencing (what you perceive as worse) may need.
I wanted to go straight to the source to get the details and break down those misconceptions for those who may need the resource for whatever reason (no access to mental health care, it’s the weekend or evening, your provider is out of town, etc.)
This post is not sponsored in any way with Crisis Text Line.
Let’s get into the interview.
L = Laura
B = Briana
L: Briana, thank you so much for taking the time to talk about the crisis text line, so we can work to break down barriers and misconceptions people may have about reaching out and getting help. I’m excited to learn more, so let’s dive in with the first question.
L: What is the Crisis Text Line?
B: Crisis Text Line is a free, 24/7 crisis line via text message or Facebook messengers. Anyone in the US can text our number (‘HOME’ to 741741) and be connected to a Crisis Counselor. We also work in Canada (686868). Additionally, we have affiliates in the UK (85258) and Ireland (50808). To reach out via Facebook Messenger, click here.
L: How does the Crisis Text Line work (knowing that experiences likely vary)?
B: Once you text our number, you’ll be connected with one of our trained Crisis Counselors. They’ll listen and support you through whatever your crisis is as well as help you to develop a plan to feel a bit better.
L: I love that you work together to develop a plan. How long does an average conversation last?
B: A conversation can last anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour.
L: Wow! That is really great. Who are you talking to when you contact the helpline? Are they a certified mental health specialist?
B: When someone contacts Crisis Text Line they have a conversation with our trained, volunteer Crisis counselors. Our Crisis Counselors are supervised by mental health professionals.
If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer, click here.
Related post: Why the news makes you anxious: headline stress disorder (with tips to cope)
L: Is it possible for someone to connect with the same Crisis Counselor again?
B: Texters are not able to connect with a previous Crisis Counselor for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason is that we are only here to support in times of crisis, so we don’t want to develop long-term relationships. We want to empower texters to develop healthy coping skills and relationships so that in times of crisis they won’t always need us (but of course we’ll always be there for them!).
We also don’t connect them with previous Crisis Counselors because our Crisis Counselors set their own schedules and may not be available when a texter who wants them reaches out.
L: You mentioned that the text line is for crisis situations, so I’m curious what Crisis Text Line considers a crisis? How do you know if you’re in a crisis?
B: Anyone is able to text us with any crisis that they have. We say, if it’s a crisis to you, it’s a crisis to us. We’ve had people text in about suicidal ideation, relationship problems, abuse, bullying, and many other issues.
L: What if someone isn’t experiencing the things you mention above, but is feeling really anxious, stressed, depressed, or overwhelmed, can they still text in?
B: Absolutely! Crisis comes in many forms and expresses itself differently for everyone. If you need support, you’re welcome to text in.
In addition to the above, some other topics the crisis text line covers is COVID, loneliness, self-harm, and emotional abuse.
Again, if it is a crisis to you, it is a crisis to us.
Related post: 10 Unexpected Things That May be Triggering Your Anxiety
B: Of course! Eco-anxiety is definitely something that people can text in about. We’ve supported texters with many different types of anxiety including eco-anxiety. We’d be happy to help support them.
Related post: Eco Anxiety and Guilt: The What and The How (to Manage)
L: That’s great to hear. I want to ask a bit more about this, because I’ve heard that people worry their “issue” isn’t severe enough, or that they’d be taking up space for someone who “really needs it”. Can you talk about this? Is that actually the case?
B: This is definitely a common theme that we see as well. We would rather have someone reach out about whatever it is that they’re feeling, even if it doesn’t seem “severe” than be in pain. Our Crisis Counselors will be there to support you no matter what.
L: That is so good to hear. There seems to be a misconception that you can only contact a mental health support line if you’re suicidal. Can someone text in if they’re not feeling suicidal?
B: Sure! You are absolutely able to text Crisis Text Line even if you’re not suicidal. It is important to us to be able to support our texters no matter what they are going through.
L: Another reason there may be hesitation contacting a health line is confidentiality. Is contacting Crisis Text Line confidential?
B: Yes, texting Crisis Text Line is confidential. We only break confidentiality when a texter is at imminent risk of suicide or if they are experiencing abuse and would like us to report it.
B: If a texter is at imminent risk of suicide and unable to come up with a plan to stay safe, we may have to contact authorities. This is pretty rare and happens in less than 1% of our conversations.
Additionally, we are mandatory reporters for abuse. We can contact authorities such as child protection agencies or elder protection agencies if the texter is being abused and would like us to report it for them. If we suspect abuse, we will always tell them that we are mandatory reporters before continuing the conversation.
Related post: 14 Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness During Times of Uncertainty
L: That all seems resonable. Is there a possibility to call and talk to someone instead of texting?
B: Currently, we only offer our service through text and Facebook messenger. If someone would like to talk on the phone, we can offer a resource for that.
L: Would you be able to touch on how Crisis Text Line may differ from other mental health lines?
B: Crisis Text Line was the first Crisis Line to provide services exclusively by text message. Many other services have adopted this method of communication. Crisis Text Line is also unique in that we have trained over 10 thousand Crisis Counselors in our 7 years of operation.
Briana, it was wonderful to connect with you again. Thank you so much for your time and for providing such helpful information!
To learn more about Briana, check out her anxiety story here, her blog here, or her Instagram here.
And here is the information for Crisis Text Line: Anyone in the US can text ‘HOME’ to 741741 and be connected to a Crisis Counselor. We also work in Canada (686868). Additionally, we have affiliates in the UK (85258) and Ireland (50808).
To reach out via Facebook Messenger, click here.
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I am a mental health advocate too and I love the work you are doing here. Really love all the resources that you have researched and made easily available. Way to go
Thank you so much!
Mental Health and accessible resources for help is such an important topic. I have also wondered about how these services work. Thank you for the educational post!
Thanks for reading!