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  • Transcriber: Ivana Korom Reviewer: Krystian Aparta

  • "I'm 14, and I want to go home."

  • "My name is Beth, I'm here for you,

  • tell me more."

  • "I've run away before,

  • but I've never been involved with anything like this.

  • I think they put drugs in my liquor."

  • "It sounds like you feel you're not safe.

  • The fastest way for me to get help to you

  • is for you to call 911."

  • "LOL, Beth.

  • If they hear me, they'll kill me.

  • They're about to send another man in to have sex with me,

  • please hurry."

  • "OK, it sounds like you're in danger.

  • I can call 911 for you and send help.

  • You're being very brave."

  • "Thanks, Beth.

  • Tell the police to be careful, these men are armed."

  • I can share this story with you,

  • because it was widely reported in news outlets throughout the country.

  • We did call 911.

  • The police rescued this girl,

  • two other girls,

  • and arrested three men,

  • all at the Motel 6 in San Jose.

  • My name is Nancy "Beth" Lublin.

  • I'm the cofounder and CEO of Crisis Text Line,

  • the free 24/7 service

  • that helps people by text and Messenger,

  • with mental health and behavioral health issues.

  • And when I go on the platform as a crisis counselor,

  • I use the alias "Beth."

  • I happen to be the crisis counselor who took that conversation.

  • But this is what Crisis Text Line is.

  • It's strangers helping strangers in their darkest moments

  • to stay alive, feel less alone,

  • and to remind them how strong they are.

  • Crisis Text Line launched quietly in August 2013

  • in Chicago and in El Paso,

  • and within four months,

  • we were in all 274 area codes of the United States,

  • because people used the service,

  • had a great experience and shared it with their friends --

  • that's organic growth.

  • And in six and a half years,

  • we've now processed about 150 million messages.

  • The people who use our free 24/7 service

  • skew young,

  • because it's text, so they skew young.

  • 45 percent are under the age of 17.

  • Also poor, racially diverse.

  • 17 percent identify as Hispanic,

  • and 44 percent LGBTQ.

  • The top five issues that we see are relationships,

  • depression, anxiety, self-harm

  • and in approximately one in four conversations,

  • suicidal ideation.

  • Everyone texting us is unhappy,

  • yet we normally have about an 86 percent satisfaction rating

  • from our texters.

  • What makes it so good?

  • The technology, the data and the people.

  • So, the technology.

  • It is not an app.

  • It's not something you have to download.

  • It's free,

  • there's no complicated intake survey,

  • so it's really user-friendly.

  • You just text us.

  • We use machine learning to stack-rank the queue

  • based on severity.

  • Kind of like a hospital emergency room would take the gunshot wound

  • before the kid with a sprained ankle.

  • We work the same way.

  • So we take the high-risk cases first.

  • So the person who swallowed a bottle of pills

  • would come before someone else.

  • This is data science to save lives.

  • But it's humans who do the counseling.

  • We've trained over 28,000 volunteer crisis counselors

  • who apply online, go through a background check

  • and then about a 30-hour training.

  • And if they pass --

  • not everybody passes,

  • there's only a 33 percent pass rate --

  • they can save lives from their couch.

  • It's a new gig economy for volunteerism,

  • like Uber or Lyft for volunteerism.

  • And we also have full-time staff

  • with a master's degree in a relevant field.

  • They're supervisors,

  • and they watch every conversation and step in if needed.

  • Thanks to this technology and data

  • and our volunteer labor model,

  • we're able to reach tons of people in pain.

  • People who don't have access to other resources,

  • like the gay teenager who can't share with his parents,

  • because they keep telling him to pray the gay away.

  • Or the girl who can't sleep at 2am

  • because she's got anxiety about finals

  • and she doesn't want to disappoint people who love her.

  • So they text us.

  • And we love on them.

  • And we support them,

  • and we remind them how strong they are.

  • And we work on a plan together to stay safe.

  • And we tell them that if this felt good,

  • sharing with us --

  • and 68 percent of people say they've shared something with us

  • they've never shared with another human,

  • so if it feels good to share with us,

  • maybe find just one other person in your life tomorrow to share with.

  • And after our conversation,

  • they put that safety plan in place.

  • And maybe they go to sleep.

  • Or they journal.

  • Or they listen to BTS or Lizzo,

  • or they write a letter to their sister

  • or their boss or to themselves, to read in 12 months.

  • They stay safe.

  • Sometimes, people have the ideation,

  • the plan, the means and the timing

  • to hurt themselves or someone else,

  • and we can't deescalate.

  • Like the man in Texas, five years ago on Christmas Eve,

  • who told us he only felt pleasure when he inflicted pain

  • and he wanted to kill women and was going to do it that very night.

  • In those imminent risk situations,

  • we call 911.

  • And thank goodness for 911,

  • because in that Texas incident,

  • as reported in the news,

  • they did send help, they sent the police to his home,

  • and they found him with an arsenal of loaded weapons

  • and on record as being in possession of a human foot.

  • Now, active rescues are less than one percent

  • of our conversations.

  • But still, that's about 26 a day.

  • And six of those a week are for homicide.

  • Typically school shooters.

  • We have now completed more than 32,000 active rescues.

  • Our own data and external studies

  • show that we're very good at saving lives,

  • and at changing lives.

  • We use the data to make it possible for us to change systems.

  • So for example,

  • we've learned the best way, the best language to risk-assess

  • around suicidal ideation

  • isn't to use the words, "Are you thinking of committing suicide?"

  • Instead, it's to use words like,

  • "Are you thinking of death or dying?"

  • Or "Are you thinking about killing yourself?"

  • And now, we've shared that language with journalists, to adopt this.

  • We've shared that language with activists.

  • We're advising the National Emergency Number Association,

  • the 911 Association,

  • on best practices for first responders in suicide.

  • And we're working with the Veterans Administration

  • to identify suicidal ideation and intent in veterans.

  • (Sighs)

  • Pain isn't an American experience.

  • It's a human experience.

  • So we've been growing.

  • So far, we've been expanding one country at a time:

  • Ireland, the UK, Canada -- which we did in both French and English.

  • And we could keep growing, one country at a time.

  • And it would take us decades

  • to reach even just a third of the people in the world.

  • And that's just not acceptable.

  • We've already seen, since the start of COVID in early March,

  • a 40 percent increase in our volume.

  • 78 percent of our conversations

  • include words like "freaked out," "scared," "panic."

  • People are worried about the COVID virus,

  • and so they're nervous about symptoms

  • and they're concerned for family on the front lines.

  • We're also seeing the impact of the quarantines themselves.

  • People are away from their routines,

  • perhaps they're quarantined with abusive people.

  • So we've seen a 48 percent increase in sexual abuse,

  • and a 74 percent increase in domestic violence.

  • One of the biggest impacts we've seen of the virus and the lockdowns

  • is the financial stress.

  • We're seeing more people reach out with fears of bankruptcy,

  • fears of homelessness and other financial ruin.

  • And right now,

  • 32 percent of our texters

  • identify as coming from household incomes under 20,000 dollars.

  • That's up from our typical 19 percent low income.

  • So we need to grow.

  • Quickly.

  • For months, we were planning on announcing that we were going to expand by language:

  • Five languages in the next five years,

  • covering 32 percent of the globe.

  • And then, COVID happened.

  • Things changed.

  • And now five years feels like a luxury.

  • So today, right now,

  • we are committing to do it in half the time.

  • Five languages in two and a half years.

  • We're going to turn on Spanish everywhere,

  • English everywhere, Portuguese everywhere,

  • French everywhere,

  • and the fifth language?

  • Arabic.

  • So we're going to bring our service to countries and populations

  • that have limited mental health services

  • and almost no data about what's going on.

  • These include immigrant populations -- who have phones.

  • And young people, who are often not counted in studies,

  • but they have phones.

  • So we're going to shift to language,

  • which makes the technology easier,

  • because in addition to text,

  • we're going to be using WhatsApp and Messenger.

  • And global expansion helps us with middle-of-the-night capacity,

  • because we'll have time-zone coverage.

  • So think about it,

  • this will be strangers helping strangers around the world.

  • Like a giant global love machine.

  • And the fact that the TED community has supported our audacious dream

  • is just deeply, deeply meaningful,

  • to me and to everybody on our team.

  • And the best way for us to show our gratitude

  • is to just let you know that we are ready and we are fired up.

  • And we're going to use this support

  • to impact millions of lives around the world.

  • Times are hard.

  • And it's confusing, and it's depressing,

  • and sometimes, we all feel alone, especially in isolation.

  • But no matter what age,

  • no matter what your situation is or where you live,

  • we'll be at your fingertips, in your pocket.

  • I've been thinking a lot these last few weeks

  • about that trafficked girl

  • who I connected with.

  • And I hope she's somewhere safe.

  • I don't know ...

  • I don't know how she's quarantined

  • or who she's with,

  • but I hope she's safe.

  • And I don't know, last year, how she had our number,

  • or even how she had access to a phone to reach out to us.

  • I never asked her.

  • Because it didn't matter.

  • What mattered was that she could contact us,

  • that she did have it, and we got help to her quickly.

  • And that's the goal,

  • it's to make it easier for people to get help

  • than avoid getting help.

  • That in moments of hardship,

  • of danger, of physical distance,

  • that nobody is ever alone.

  • That thanks to Crisis Text Line,

  • none of us is ever actually alone.

  • [Support this initiative at AudaciousProject.org]

Transcriber: Ivana Korom Reviewer: Krystian Aparta