Lean on Me: Helping Through The Crisis Text Line

By Allison Donofrio, Staff Writer

Lebanon, Ill. – While on winter break last December, I saw a volunteer opportunity I could not pass up. On ‘To Write Love on Her Arms’’ Facebook page, I saw an advertisement asking for volunteers to be a Crisis Counselor on Crisis Text Line. I had never heard about this organization, so I considered it further.

Crisis Text Line is a non-profit organization that provides free crisis intervention through text messaging. Strangers can text 741741 and will be put in a queue to discuss their crisis with a counselor.

I applied to be a Crisis Counselor before New Year’s Eve. On January 4, I received an email stating my acceptance into the program. At first, I experienced a lot of anxiety as to what sort of crises I would encounter.

Within two weeks of training, those worries were put to rest. Crisis Counselors are supervised by a trained professional with at least a Master’s degree in Psychology or a related field.

If a texter is suicidal, there are various steps to take before the counselor transfers the conversation to their supervisor. First, the counselor needs to check if the texter is considering suicide, knows how they would do it, has the means to attempt and has a time frame when he or she will take their own life. If all are present, then the conversation would be flagged to the supervisor, who would then do an active rescue by checking their cell phone number to contact the proper authorities.

Through the Crisis Text Line, I have learned how to deal with people who are depressed, self-harmful, bullied, suffering from an eating disorder, homeless, suffering from substance abuse, or experiencing problems stemming from being a member of the LGBTQ community.

Since there are many ways to deal with suicidal texters, I was unsure if I would be prepared to deal with so many different topics. We are not experts on any topic, but we are there to give empathetic responses. We remind them that it is completely normal to feel a loss of control in life and to be unsure where to turn next.

Using techniques like validations, strength IDs, open-ended questions and tentafiers, we can engage with texters without giving advice. Strength IDs can be helpful to lift the texter up by telling them that we are inspired by how they are dealing with such a difficult situation.

In one conversation I had two weeks ago, the texter was surprised when I used strength IDs. I could tell it was affecting them, and it helped them realize their own strength.

Tentafiers can be used by reading what the texter is saying, then putting emotion onto their situation. An example of this is telling them “I hear you’re feeling (specific emotion).” This tells the texter that we are listening to what he or she is saying. At times, texters do not know what they are feeling. Tentafiers can be beneficial to help them express their feelings.

Sometimes, all people need in life is someone who listens. We may not understand the exact situation, but we are always there for support.

Through this experience, I have gained knowledge about how to respond to someone empathetically. This organization shows that the world can still be a beautiful place, where strangers help other strangers overcome their problems. We all need someone to lean on, and Crisis Counselors are there when no one else will listen.

For questions or concerns, comment below or contact Allison Donofrio at allison.donofrio15@mckendree.edu.
Featured Image Credit: Crisis Text Line.


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