Content Warning: The article includes references to sexual assault and rape. If you are in crisis text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor.
Eight years ago, I received a text message that changed everything. It read: “He won’t stop raping me. He’s my dad. He told me not to tell anyone. R u there?”
As CEO of DoSomething.org, I’d spent a decade building a team that rallied youth to show up for their communities using the tool they knew and loved: text messaging. Campaign after campaign, we put the keys for youth to participate in civic action at their fingertips. What we never could have anticipated was that we’d also unlock a means for them to ask for help when they need it.
That text message was from one of our DoSomething.org members. And it inspired the creation of CrisisTextLine.org. If people needed to share their pain by text, someone needed to build a hotline by text. And here we are, 6 years from launching and 120 million messages later. You can reach us in the USA at 741741, in the UK at (85258), and Canada at (686868).
This World Mental Health Day, newsfeeds will be filled with statistics about the rise of anxiety and depression, how social media makes us all feel FOMO, and the rising suicide rates around the world. Yep. It’s one huge pile of bad news. Mental health is a growth industry. The world is in some fierce pain right now.
But, our data makes us feel hopeful. We’re learning some things that make us think that mental strength is possible and brighter days could be around the corner.
Every day, our trained Crisis Counselors (or, “Empathy MVPs” as we affectionately refer to them behind the scenes) handle ~4000 conversations a day with people who are anxious about school, working through bouts of depression, navigating tough relationships, or even looking for help in dangerous situations. By responding with empathy, our Crisis Counselors are able to help them find coping mechanisms to stop self-harming, navigate school bullies, or safety plan if the texter is at imminent risk for suicide. Yes, empathy.
With an 86% satisfaction rating from our texters (19% of them respond to an optional survey), we’ve learned what works. We’ve tested matching Texas texters with Texas Crisis Counselors, matching women with women, triaging to experts, etc. None of that matters. One thing that does matter? How many strength IDs a Crisis Counselor shares with the person in pain.
A strength ID is a form of empathy. It’s an authentic kind word. Our data shows that some of the best strength IDs in the USA are “smart,” “proud,” “brave,” and in 2018 the word “impressive” became hot.
Empathy is something all of us can do for each other. It costs no money. It requires no vote of Congress. It’s gluten-free. It doesn’t care if your cell battery is on 1%. And, it requires no photo-shopping or filter.
Kind words. Use them. Share them. Be real about them. And tell the people in your life that they are smart, proud, brave, or impressive. Or, find another word that’s true and admirable and give it to them straight up. Maybe even text it to them.
And if they need more, we’re here. 24/7. xoxo