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How Data From a Text Crisis Line is Saving Lives

How did the crisis text line start?

Nancy Lublin gave a talk that we hosted live about how she and others started the national text crisis line for young people. They were using automated text services to send reminders about food pantries and having 97% turn out from this. They were getting seemingly random, personal responses from many people confiding on troubles they were having - drug addiction, cutting, suicide, sexual assault, rape. They realized this needed to be more than what it was - and they created a national crisis text line.

And the texts came pouring in. And it didn't stop there. Their data allowed them to put probabilities on certain words in a text being associated with certain traumatic events and possible outcomes. For example, "numbs" and "sleeve" - the probability is in the 90s percent wise on this indicating a person was in danger of self harm, and automated some possible questions that could help. There were similar algorithms for drug addiction, suicide, sexual assault, and more. This helped create 'better therapists' from the people responding.

Also from their data they've established:

Monday is the worst day for eating disorders.

5am is the worst time for substance abuse.

Montana is the worst state for suicide idealization.

Knowing these things, having this data evidence, helps make it possible to create better programs, outreach, solutions, school programs, and so much more - leading to slow but important progress on so many things. Not to mention the many lives it saved just in the moment those people have had somebody there to respond. I've used similar text lines. And I recommend them for others.

Thankfully, they have made all of this data public, and free. Visit

She ends the show - "I don't think of myself as a mental health advocate, I think of myself as a National Health Advocate."

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