Crisis Text Line Raises $24m to Expand Free 24/7 Support

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Crisis Text Line, a non-for-profit tech startup that offers round the clock, live support to those in need, has raised $23.8m in Series B funding, drawing on investment from Melinda Gates, The Ballmer Group, Reid Hoffman, and Anne Devereux-Mills, among others. Nancy Lublin, founder and CEO, confirmed that she would use the money to expand further her company.

Inspired by Lublin's previous experience with children in risk, Crisis Text Line is a free 24/7 live support line for people in need via text. Anyone in crisis may text 741741 from the US at any time to receive professional help by a mental health counselor. Nancy Lublin commented:

"This is not therapy or ongoing counseling, but helping those in trouble move from a hot moment to a cool moment."

As noted by FinSMEs, the startup has a network of over 1,500 volunteer counselors with plans in the following two years to expand to 4,000. Based in New York City, the company also teamed up with YouTube to provide support for users looking for suicide and depression content through the use of YouTube's Crisis One Box. Crisis Text Line has also partnered with the teen app After School to ensure a direct link in the app to the non-stop support of Crisis Text Line. It also started a customized solution to allow other organizations to benefit from the platform.

Since its launch in August 2013, Crisis Text Line's counselors have exchanged over 19.8 million messages with people suffering from depression or experiencing abuse, suicidal thoughts, bullying, eating disorders, and more, the official website states. As noted by Mareesa Nicosia of The 74 Million, 70 percent of those people were teens or young adults aged 13 to 25.

As the service is gaining popularity at schools across the nation, the company expects this number to increase significantly in the future. Many schools are struggling financially, and it is difficult, if not impossible, for them to keep social workers or psychologists on payroll.

Meanwhile, it appeared that the Crisis Text Line is popular not only among students. It is also widely used by the military community members, including anyone from active duty troops and their families to retired veterans. Because the service is confidential, the exact phone numbers are unknown. However, keyword analysis of text exchanges showed that conversations involving military personnel increased by 33 percent since 2014, writes Jon Anderson of The Military Times. Problems of sexual and physical abuse, financial struggles, housing issues and homelessness were among the most frequently shared problems with mental health professionals.

Asked to comment on that, Lubin said:

"We're kind of amazed so many military people are finding us. And we're glad they are. I guess I'm just a little embarrassed as an American that we're not taking better care of our own people, especially the people who served us."

Thanks to the Crisis Text Line, deaf people now have an easy opportunity to receive psychological help when in need, writes Madison Park of USA Today. When Lily Rayne, who is deaf, was young, she had suicidal thoughts. Because she did not grow up with sign language, she could not express her feelings and could not receive qualified help. Rayne is now a volunteer at Crisis Text Line and helps people in situations similar to the one she experienced:

"Crisis Text Line is not a replacement for mental health care, but when one feels completely overwhelmed, lost and alone, it's a point of connection and a way to get to a more stable frame of mind."

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