Crisis Text Line gets a $23.8M boost to expand its text-based crisis support efforts

Mon, 2016-06-27 15:45 -- Compassionate C...

In announcing a $23.8 million Series B round from an impressive list of backers earlier this month – LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark
and Melinda Gates among them -- the not-for-profit tech startup Crisis Text Line also shared some impressive results accrued since it launched the free, 24/7 text-based support service in August 2013:

  • More than 19 million text messages exchanged with people in crisis
  • More than 1,500 volunteer crisis counselors trained

Equally interesting are the demographics of those 19 million texters. According to Crisis Text Line real-time surveying:

  • 80% of texters report being under the age of 25
  • 6% say they are Native American and 14% Hispanic
  • 19% of the texting volume comes from the 10% lowest-income zip codes

“Crisis Text Line is a powerful way to reach young people in need using a technology they know and trust," said Melinda Gates.

How it works
Available in the U.S., anyone who feels they are in crisis can text 741741. They'll receive an automated text asking what their crisis is. Within minutes a live, trained volunteer will respond to help the texter through the moment of crisis and on a plan to continue to feel better. Everything shared is done so anonymously, according to the Crisis Text Line website.

The organization says it uses natural language processing and machine learning to make its service faster and more accurate. One example: Conversations are triaged based on severity, instead of being handled in chronological order.

What's next
With the $23.8 million infusion, Crisis Text Line plans to focus on three main initiatives, according to a press release:

  1. Supporting its Crisis Counselor community with better products and more emotional support
  2. Integrating with tech companies to provide support to users inside things like After School, Kik, YouTube and Facebook Messenger
  3. White labeling its service for other organizations and locations -- providing a free text service for the National Eating Disorder Association and cities like Newark and Atlanta

"Crisis Text Line is shaping a new understanding of mental illness in our country by helping people where they are: on their mobile phones," said Shripriya Mahesh, a partner at Omidyar Network, one of the Series B investors.

Click to watch a TED Talk by Crisis Text Line founder Nancy Lublin.

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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