Crisis Text Line is a 24/7 support for people in crisis. Anyone, anywhere in the United States, can text with a trained Crisis Counselor. Almost 40 million messages have been exchanged in three years, and countless individuals have been moved from a “hot moment” of despair to a place of “cool calm” – and willingness to create a plan to stay safe and healthy – with the support of CTL Counselors. The primary age group contacting CTL is 13-26 and these texters are dealing with multiple types of crises and painful situations, sometimes leading to suicidal ideation or attempts. Texting is how many communicate so texting for help makes sense. CTL volunteers are connecting with individual texters – who are scared and in pain – and working to help them feel calmer and make a plan to be safe.
Meredith is one of the 3,000 volunteers who are trained Crisis Counselors taking four hour shifts every week. Meredith shared how her spiritual resources have enabled her to be prepared to listen and respond with empathy.
How did you get involved with CTL?
Everyone who volunteers for a social cause is making a difference, it seems to me. There are a lot of opportunities! So when I was searching for an organization to be a part of, I looked particularly for volunteering that was truly serving the underserved. That is definitely the CTL focus. I taught school for many years and knew that the 13-26 age group faces serious difficulties – and they are so open and honest and text about everything! Sadly, the suicide rate among girls in this age group is increasing at an alarming rate. These texters need support, and I can be there.
What are the challenges in doing this work?
All the Crisis Counselors receive excellent training before we start. We also have Supervisors overseeing all ongoing conversations and standing by ready to assist. But there are those days that are very demanding when I am working with several texters at a time who are in pain. Then add to that those situations that are stressful – a risk of suicide and an immediate rescue (from emergency service) that needs to be initiated. A Counselor stays in contact with the texter until support is on the scene. It is hard to let it go when the shift is over.
How do you cope? Do you have a reservoir of spiritual resources to support you?
The most important thing I do before I start my shift is to spend several minutes being quiet and focusing my thoughts on pure love – the love of a higher being that includes all the people who are texting and all the counselors who are connecting with them, including me!
I start from the basis that the texters who are in pain are loved – and even the texters who prank, because they are troubled too. Then I include all the Supervisors who have our backs – it’s an extra layer of love. So all the texting and responding is coming from a basis and big circle of love. That is a whole lot of love going out there! When I feel that manifestation of love wrapping everyone up, I am at peace and ready to work. I am relying on that the whole time. Then when I get off my shift I pause and consciously reconnect to that higher being and know that every person I texted with is strengthened because they felt all that love and the love is going to stick. This is especially important when the shift has been stressful.
How do you know that your work is effective?
Last night I had a young girl who has been cutting since 5th grade – it was evident she was suicidal. Love is what people in this situation really need to feel, especially the younger girls. I texted, “I am here for you, I am sending you the biggest hug, can you feel it?” And she responded, ”Yes I do.” The conversation continued to help her feel safe – safe enough to throw her pills away, put her blade away in another room. We worked out a plan for her to stay safe for the rest of the night. I said, “I want to know that you are safe. I want to know if you feel you are able to commit to staying safe with the plan we agreed on.” She was able to do that, otherwise our decision for her would have been different.
Then I finished my shift knowing that all the love we all have is keeping her safe for the night. Keeps me safe too – so I can get ready for next week. You have to take each day, one day at a time and be satisfied that everyone you connect with is safe for that day.
Is your volunteering expanding your spiritual resources?
Oh yes. Our Counselor training prepares us to become engaged, find common ground, and be encouraging. All great qualities of active listening. What I am getting better at is listening intentionally for the indication of a positive or changed thought, even in the midst of pain. Many people realize at some level that their thinking is governing their experience. I have found receptivity when I say “I understand your pain is too much, but I hear a tiny part of you is wanting to change tonight – I hear you talking about the future or improving – so let’s talk about that.” Really, I am getting clearer myself that thought is the key to someone’s experience…the more I recognize that particular thought that is willing to change for the better, the more I think I can find common ground and guide to the safe cool calm.
At the end of a day, what makes you feel like you have done something good?
One day someone texted “I don’t think I would have made it through this day without you. I am sending a hug back.” Recently a mom called CTL to thank us for keeping her daughter safe through the night, so that she could start a treatment program. But most of the time we don’t get feedback and we have to be able to let go. This is all about supporting our texters.
So for me, I know I have been blessed by getting to connect and support someone in pain. We have gotten to know each other and we have worked out a plan for their next steps and hopefully they feel empowered to do it. Most importantly I hope through our conversation they have realized that they are valuable and loved! That’s enough.
Here is a short video on Crisis Text Line:
For detailed information about Crisis Text Line, go here: http://www.crisistextline.org/
Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7 support for those in crisis. Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.