Gunn Grad Leads Local Crisis Text Line Effort
Libby Craig, a Palo Alto native and Gunn High School graduate, spent four hours every Sunday night for several months this year as a volunteer crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line, a free, confidential, 24/7 support service accessible nationwide by simply texting the number 741741. Recently, she joined the nonprofit organization full time and is leading Crisis Text Line’s efforts to grow the service in the Bay Area, in part in response to the youth suicide clusters in her own hometown.
The database is searchable by type of crisis (from anxiety and school problems to sexual abuse and suicidal thoughts), time of day or day of the week, by U.S. state and more. Crisis Text Line also partners with academic researchers who look more deeply at specific datasets. A Data Ethics Committee of medical professionals, academics, a representative from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others is in place to review Crisis Text Line’s data collection, storage and sharing practices.
Counselers learn how to assess a texter for suicide risk by directly asking if they’re having thoughts of suicide, Craig said. If the situation rises to the level of “imminent risk” — a person has a plan, method and immediate access to means of suicide — the counselor flags the conversation and a supervisor, who has more mental-health training, can call the local authorities to send help in person. The counselor also doesn’t keep that action a secret, she said: “We will often say, ‘I’m really worried about your safety tonight, and I want to get you help.”
Craig is starting to meet with local school and community representatives in Palo Alto and elsewhere to pursue this vision. And beyond her goal of making the crisis line a ubiquitous resource locally, she hopes that Crisis Text Line’s data can help inform ongoing efforts in Palo Alto to improve mental-health support and services.
And 80 percent of Crisis Text Line texters report being under the age of 25, according to the nonprofit.