E020 – How Crisis Text Line uses data to save lives

If you’re in crisis, text 741741 if you’re in the US to talk with a counselor now. In this episode we speak with the people behind Crisis Text Line and Crisis Trends, two services that use data to make a difference for those going through a crisis or looking for someone with whom to talk.


Key Stats

  • Over 1 million messages transmitted per month
  • 75% of texters are under 25
  • 10% under age 13
  • 65% say they have shared something with Crisis Text Line that they haven’t shared with anyone else
  • Usually at least one active rescue per day
  • Take people based on severity and have the ability to initiate an active rescue (via 911)
    • Words like ibuprofen, aspirin, tylenol are more indicative of active rescue need than the words die, overdose, suicide
    • 🙁 emoji is 4x more of an indicator
  • Roots of CTL go back to 1906 when Save-A-Life League started via newspaper ads
    • The Samaritans was the first phone suicide hotline and started in November 1953
  • Founded by Nancy Lublin, who is also the CEO of DoSomething.org, in 2011

  • Introductions – background, how they got their start, how they got involved in CrisisTextLine
    • Staci – volunteer
    • Scotty – Data Scientist
  • History of Crisis Text Line and high-level structure (where they operate, # of locations, # of employees / volunteers)
  • Staci’s experience
    • What was training like?
    • Where do she take sessions and how often?
    • How do she feel after a session?
    • Her experience as a counselor and thoughts on the impact, data, etc.
  • What ways they collect data
    • #s of texters
    • UI platform for counselors
    • Types of data they collect
    • Types of technologies used to collect/manage it – both publicly, behind the scenes, for presentations, etc.
  • What ways they use data
    • CrisisTrends.org site
    • Anonymity, opt-in/opt-out options and how frequent each occur
  • Key stats they feel are most important/surprising/alarming, etc.
    • How has data made an impact to those in need?
    • How has data made an impact to counselors?
    • How has data made an impact to the organization?
    • How has data made an impact to the crisis advocacy sector as a whole?
  • What ways can other people can use their data
    • Do they encourage that visitors explore to find their own insights?
    • Will data be available by zip code at some point?
  • Data Science
    • What tools and techniques do they see being most important in the near term?
    • What do they see as becoming less important in the near term?
    • What is something they could have told their earlier selves that would have made their path to this point easier?
  • Organization Info
    • How someone can get involved
    • What they need most
    • What is in store for the future? New technologies, platforms for contact, etc.
    • How someone can contact them


Deep Sky Blue by Graphiqs Groove


  1. https://youtu.be/KOtFDsC8JC0 – TED talk about origin
  2. https://www.crisistextline.org/
  3. https://crisistrends.org/
  4. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/09/r-u

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