Texting in a crisis

Sometimes a solution to a problem can be right at your fingertips. That was certainly the case for Nancy Lublin, who realised the best way to communicate with teenagers in need was to speak their language – texts.

Image from Virgin Unite

Nancy Lublin came to our Virgin Unite Disrupting for Good Leadership gathering and spoke to the group recently; it was inspiring to hear her talk about her journey. She has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and desire to make positive change in the world. She turned a $5,000 inheritance into Dress for Success, which helps women transition from welfare to work in more than 125 cities in 15 countries. Next, she became CEO of DoSomething.org, the largest organization for teens and social change in the world.

But she didn’t stop there. Nancy decided to create her third company, Crisis Text Line - the first 24/7, free, nationwide text line for US teens. She got in touch with me asking for help introducing her to telecoms companies, who could waive the new charity's fees and remove them from billing statements. I was of course more than happy to help. 

Image from Virgin Unite

Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T all agreed to waive charges for sending messages to the hotline, as well as the charges for the hotline itself. What’s more, they agreed to ensure texts don’t show up on billing records, protecting people from potentially alerting abusive spouses or family members. The goodwill of the mobile companies will save Crisis Text Line hundreds of thousands of dollars – as well as improve safety for texters.

Crisis Text Line, now handles more than 20,000 messages from teenagers in distress every day and has processed more than seven million messages. Also, while they thought it would just be for teens, they are helping people of all ages. As they simply put it: “Our crisis counsellors practice active listening to help people in crisis move from a hot moment to a cool calm – all through a medium they know and trust: text.”

Image from Virgin Unite

Nancy recently got in touch with a particularly moving message. One of the telecoms executives I had put her in touch asked their teenage children if they had heard of Crisis Text Line. One of them replied that she actually used the service a few months earlier when she was feeling particularly stressed out about school.

For more on the wonderful work of Crisis Text Line, read this excellent profile over at The New Yorker, and head over to Crisis Text Line to support their vital work.

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