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← Crisis support for the world, one text away

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Showing Revision 7 created 06/16/2020 by Brian Greene.

  1. "I'm 14, and I want to go home."
  2. "My name is Beth, I'm here for you,

  3. tell me more."
  4. "I've run away before,

  5. but I've never been involved
    with anything like this.
  6. I think they put drugs in my liquor."
  7. "It sounds like you feel you're not safe.

  8. The fastest way for me to get help to you
  9. is for you to call 911."
  10. "LOL, Beth.

  11. If they hear me, they'll kill me.
  12. They're about to send another man in
    to have sex with me,
  13. please hurry."
  14. "OK, it sounds like you're in danger.

  15. I can call 911 for you and send help.
  16. You're being very brave."
  17. "Thanks, Beth.

  18. Tell the police to be careful,
    these men are armed."
  19. I can share this story with you,

  20. because it was widely reported
    in news outlets throughout the country.
  21. We did call 911.
  22. The police rescued this girl,
  23. two other girls,
  24. and arrested three men,
  25. all at the Motel 6 in San Jose.
  26. My name is Nancy "Beth" Lublin.

  27. I'm the cofounder and CEO
    of Crisis Text Line,
  28. the free 24/7 service
  29. that helps people by text and Messenger,
  30. with mental health
    and behavioral health issues.
  31. And when I go on the platform
    as a crisis counselor,
  32. I use the alias "Beth."
  33. I happen to be the crisis counselor
    who took that conversation.
  34. But this is what Crisis Text Line is.
  35. It's strangers helping strangers
    in their darkest moments
  36. to stay alive, feel less alone,
  37. and to remind them how strong they are.
  38. Crisis Text Line launched
    quietly in August 2013

  39. in Chicago and in El Paso,
  40. and within four months,
  41. we were in all 274 area codes
    of the United States,
  42. because people used the service,
  43. had a great experience
    and shared it with their friends --
  44. that's organic growth.
  45. And in six and a half years,
  46. we've now processed
    about 150 million messages.
  47. The people who use our free 24/7 service
  48. skew young,
  49. because it's text, so they skew young.
  50. 45 percent are under the age of 17.
  51. Also poor, racially diverse.
  52. 17 percent identify as Hispanic,
  53. and 44 percent LGBTQ.
  54. The top five issues
    that we see are relationships,

  55. depression, anxiety, self-harm
  56. and in approximately one
    in four conversations,
  57. suicidal ideation.
  58. Everyone texting us is unhappy,
  59. yet we normally have
    about an 86 percent satisfaction rating
  60. from our texters.
  61. What makes it so good?
  62. The technology, the data and the people.
  63. So, the technology.

  64. It is not an app.
  65. It's not something you have to download.
  66. It's free,
  67. there's no complicated intake survey,
  68. so it's really user-friendly.
  69. You just text us.
  70. We use machine learning
    to stack-rank the queue
  71. based on severity.
  72. Kind of like a hospital emergency room
    would take the gunshot wound
  73. before the kid with a sprained ankle.
  74. We work the same way.
  75. So we take the high-risk cases first.
  76. So the person who swallowed
    a bottle of pills
  77. would come before someone else.
  78. This is data science to save lives.

  79. But it's humans who do the counseling.
  80. We've trained over 28,000
    volunteer crisis counselors
  81. who apply online,
    go through a background check
  82. and then about a 30-hour training.
  83. And if they pass --
  84. not everybody passes,
  85. there's only a 33 percent pass rate --
  86. they can save lives from their couch.
  87. It's a new gig economy for volunteerism,
  88. like Uber or Lyft for volunteerism.
  89. And we also have full-time staff
  90. with a master's degree
    in a relevant field.
  91. They're supervisors,
  92. and they watch every conversation
    and step in if needed.
  93. Thanks to this technology and data

  94. and our volunteer labor model,
  95. we're able to reach
    tons of people in pain.
  96. People who don't have access
    to other resources,
  97. like the gay teenager
    who can't share with his parents,
  98. because they keep telling him
    to pray the gay away.
  99. Or the girl who can't sleep at 2am
  100. because she's got anxiety about finals
  101. and she doesn't want to disappoint
    people who love her.
  102. So they text us.
  103. And we love on them.
  104. And we support them,
  105. and we remind them how strong they are.
  106. And we work on a plan
    together to stay safe.
  107. And we tell them that if this felt good,
  108. sharing with us --
  109. and 68 percent of people say
    they've shared something with us
  110. they've never shared with another human,
  111. so if it feels good to share with us,
  112. maybe find just one other person
    in your life tomorrow to share with.
  113. And after our conversation,

  114. they put that safety plan in place.
  115. And maybe they go to sleep.
  116. Or they journal.
  117. Or they listen to BTS or Lizzo,
  118. or they write a letter to their sister
  119. or their boss or to themselves,
    to read in 12 months.
  120. They stay safe.
  121. Sometimes, people have the ideation,

  122. the plan, the means and the timing
  123. to hurt themselves or someone else,
  124. and we can't deescalate.
  125. Like the man in Texas,
    five years ago on Christmas Eve,
  126. who told us he only felt pleasure
    when he inflicted pain
  127. and he wanted to kill women
    and was going to do it that very night.
  128. In those imminent risk situations,
  129. we call 911.
  130. And thank goodness for 911,
  131. because in that Texas incident,
  132. as reported in the news,
  133. they did send help,
    they sent the police to his home,
  134. and they found him with an arsenal
    of loaded weapons
  135. and on record as being
    in possession of a human foot.
  136. Now, active rescues
    are less than one percent

  137. of our conversations.
  138. But still, that's about 26 a day.
  139. And six of those a week are for homicide.
  140. Typically school shooters.
  141. We have now completed
    more than 32,000 active rescues.
  142. Our own data and external studies

  143. show that we're very good at saving lives,
  144. and at changing lives.
  145. We use the data to make it possible
    for us to change systems.
  146. So for example,
  147. we've learned the best way,
    the best language to risk-assess
  148. around suicidal ideation
  149. isn't to use the words,
    "Are you thinking of committing suicide?"
  150. Instead, it's to use words like,
  151. "Are you thinking of death or dying?"
  152. Or "Are you thinking
    about killing yourself?"
  153. And now, we've shared that language
    with journalists, to adopt this.
  154. We've shared that language with activists.
  155. We're advising the National Emergency
    Number Association,
  156. the 911 Association,
  157. on best practices
    for first responders in suicide.
  158. And we're working
    with the Veterans Administration
  159. to identify suicidal ideation
    and intent in veterans.
  160. (Sighs)

  161. Pain isn't an American experience.

  162. It's a human experience.
  163. So we've been growing.
  164. So far, we've been expanding
    one country at a time:
  165. Ireland, the UK, Canada --
    which we did in both French and English.
  166. And we could keep growing,
    one country at a time.
  167. And it would take us decades
  168. to reach even just a third
    of the people in the world.
  169. And that's just not acceptable.
  170. We've already seen,
    since the start of COVID in early March,
  171. a 40 percent increase in our volume.
  172. 78 percent of our conversations
  173. include words like "freaked out,"
    "scared," "panic."
  174. People are worried about the COVID virus,
  175. and so they're nervous about symptoms
  176. and they're concerned for family
    on the front lines.
  177. We're also seeing the impact
    of the quarantines themselves.

  178. People are away from their routines,
  179. perhaps they're quarantined
    with abusive people.
  180. So we've seen a 48 percent
    increase in sexual abuse,
  181. and a 74 percent increase
    in domestic violence.
  182. One of the biggest impacts we've seen
    of the virus and the lockdowns
  183. is the financial stress.
  184. We're seeing more people
    reach out with fears of bankruptcy,
  185. fears of homelessness
    and other financial ruin.
  186. And right now,
  187. 32 percent of our texters
  188. identify as coming from household incomes
    under 20,000 dollars.
  189. That's up from our typical
    19 percent low income.
  190. So we need to grow.

  191. Quickly.
  192. For months, we were planning on announcing
    that we were going to expand by language:
  193. Five languages in the next five years,
  194. covering 32 percent of the globe.
  195. And then, COVID happened.
  196. Things changed.
  197. And now five years feels like a luxury.
  198. So today, right now,

  199. we are committing
    to do it in half the time.
  200. Five languages in two and a half years.
  201. We're going to turn on Spanish everywhere,
  202. English everywhere, Portuguese everywhere,
  203. French everywhere,
  204. and the fifth language?
  205. Arabic.
  206. So we're going to bring our service
    to countries and populations
  207. that have limited mental health services
  208. and almost no data about what's going on.
  209. These include immigrant
    populations -- who have phones.
  210. And young people, who are often
    not counted in studies,
  211. but they have phones.
  212. So we're going to shift to language,

  213. which makes the technology easier,
  214. because in addition to text,
  215. we're going to be using
    WhatsApp and Messenger.
  216. And global expansion helps us
    with middle-of-the-night capacity,
  217. because we'll have time-zone coverage.
  218. So think about it,
  219. this will be strangers
    helping strangers around the world.
  220. Like a giant global love machine.
  221. And the fact that the TED community
    has supported our audacious dream

  222. is just deeply, deeply meaningful,
  223. to me and to everybody on our team.
  224. And the best way
    for us to show our gratitude
  225. is to just let you know
    that we are ready and we are fired up.
  226. And we're going to use this support
  227. to impact millions of lives
    around the world.
  228. Times are hard.
  229. And it's confusing, and it's depressing,
  230. and sometimes, we all feel alone,
    especially in isolation.
  231. But no matter what age,
  232. no matter what your situation is
    or where you live,
  233. we'll be at your fingertips,
    in your pocket.
  234. I've been thinking a lot
    these last few weeks

  235. about that trafficked girl
  236. who I connected with.
  237. And I hope she's somewhere safe.
  238. I don't know ...
  239. I don't know how she's quarantined
  240. or who she's with,
  241. but I hope she's safe.
  242. And I don't know, last year,
    how she had our number,
  243. or even how she had access
    to a phone to reach out to us.
  244. I never asked her.
  245. Because it didn't matter.
  246. What mattered was
    that she could contact us,
  247. that she did have it,
    and we got help to her quickly.
  248. And that's the goal,
  249. it's to make it easier
    for people to get help
  250. than avoid getting help.
  251. That in moments of hardship,
  252. of danger, of physical distance,
  253. that nobody is ever alone.
  254. That thanks to Crisis Text Line,
  255. none of us is ever actually alone.
  256. [Support this initiative
    at AudaciousProject.org]