The Community Club

Community Signal

Helping Online Community Members Experiencing a Mental Health Crisis

Crisis Text Line offers free, 24/7 support via text message to anyone facing a mental health crisis. Some organizations partner with Crisis Text Line to develop co-branded text lines for their community, but starting today, you can make Crisis Text Line part of your policy and response strategy if anyone in your community or on your team shares or shows signs that they’re experiencing a mental health crisis.

The other part of your response strategy leverages a skill that you likely practice everyday –– empathy. Becka Ross, the chief program officer at Crisis Text Line, reminds us that “anybody can be empathetic. When somebody is expressing or showing signs of mental illness, it’s not the expectation that somebody steps up into a role of a psychotherapist or a doctor or any other mental health professional, but all humans can be empathetic to one another.”

Crisis Text Line is powered by a team of 39,000 volunteers. Their community, training, and volunteer opportunities call on people from all walks of life to work together to help those facing mental health dilemmas. In our discussion with Becka, you’ll learn not only how the team supports one another through community, but also how you can do the same for your own community members and the people you care about.

Becka and Patrick discuss:

  • How Crisis Text Line partners with organizations and offers itself as a resource to anyone in need
  • Forming a mental health crisis policy for your community
  • Using machine learning to respond quickest to those most at risk
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Big Quotes

An example of how Crisis Text Line partners with other organizations (03:12): “The state of Ohio’s mental health and addiction services [have] a keyword that they share with their residents [who text it] to our crisis line, linked with our trained crisis counselors, who support the residents in crisis. We provide the state of Ohio with anonymized and aggregated trends about how their constituents are using our service, which, in turn, can help them to create better policies, more services, and support in specific areas.” –Becka Ross

Establish a mental health crisis policy to support your team and community (08:29): “It’s a great idea to have a [mental health crisis] policy in place before you need it so that you can have something to fall back on. It can be alarming or even scary to hear somebody else say they want to hurt themselves or somebody else. Having a policy that’s written before you’re in that situation can be helpful in ensuring that you can offer support in a meaningful way.” –Becka Ross

Reacting with empathy makes a difference (09:30): “Anybody can be empathetic. When somebody is expressing or showing signs of mental illness, it’s not the expectation that somebody steps up into a role of a psychotherapist or a doctor or any other mental health professional, but all humans can be empathetic to one another.” –Becka Ross

Reacting with empathy makes a difference (09:30): “One of the bravest things you could do as a human is reach out to somebody who you feel like is struggling and just ask if they’re okay.” –Becka Ross

How Crisis Text Line reaches those at the most risk within 24 seconds (19:30): “We have a machine learning algorithm that triages our incoming conversations based on risk. We are able to respond to the highest-need texters the quickest. On average, [we get to them] within 24 seconds.” –Becka Ross

Boundaries on the Crisis Text Line team and how the team members support one another (20:50): “We’re not therapists. We’re not doing clinical long-term work. We’re short-term, helping somebody get to a calm state, and then offering resources. Our supervisors are there for … in-the-moment support if it’s needed. If things escalate [or] if we hear about abuse or any other high-risk situation, then our staff intervene and really support volunteers so they’re not alone.” –Becka Ross

About Becka Ross

Becka Ross is a licensed clinical social worker with over 15 years experience in mental health, working in direct practice as a psychotherapist, managing a residential program for young men transitioning to adulthood, providing teletherapy in a medical setting and currently the chief program officer at Crisis Text Line; free, 24/7 crisis support through a text based service. Becka is a passionate advocate for access to quality mental health and suicide prevention.

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