Nancy Lublin is the CEO of Crisis Text Line and was the creator of Dress for Success. She also served as the CEO of Do Something Inc., a company that attempts to mobilize youth to participate in social change, from 2003 to 2015.
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My short bio: Founder of Crisis Text Line. Previously CEO of DoSomething.org and Founder of Dress For Success. Author of XYZ Factor, Zilch, and the DoSomething.org Handbook. Ask me about tech, data, entrepreneurship, Star Wars.
This AMA is not for crisis support. In crisis? Text 741741 for free, 24/7 crisis support in the US.
My Proof: http://imgur.com/WGi2Ao7
What has been the biggest innovation that Crisis Text Line has brought to crisis intervention?
Text isn't new. Applying text to crisis, doing it 24/7 on a national scale? Thats pretty cool. But not our biggest innovation.
Stack ranking based on severity. Thats innovative...and important! Thanks to some fancy work by our data science and engineering teams, we're able to triage and take the most high-risk texters first. Those minutes mean more lives saved.
Hi Nancy! Like a few of the users on this thread, I'm also a Crisis Counselor. Any insight (or hints) where our next Palooza is taking place?!
Sidenote: My Crisis Counselor bestie and I already planning to get t-shirts made specifically for Palooza (we were in the same training cohort!)
Apparently it will be in October. Hoping to finalize the location in next two weeks.
What percentage of your staff have a background in the mental health field?
All of our Supervisors have a masters degree in a relevant mental health field like psych, social work, human services, etc. (And we have 1 minister!)
What is the biggest hurdle with starting a non-profit?
People often think that money is the main barrier. And, indeed, its really really tough to raise seed capital for new things. (Many funders have "buckets" they like--and if your idea is truly innovative, it might not fit old buckets!)
I have found that the biggest obstacle is actually time. I dream up ideas every week. Why do some ideas become real things and other ideas die in my head? Time. Is it the right time for me to jump in it--or am I distracted? Is the world ready for this idea? Do other people have the mindshare to hear this idea now? Timing...and luck...are under-appreciated crucial hurdles.
What is the most frequent crisis you see in Crisis Text Line?
Four main crisis areas: (a) ~30% of all our conversations are about depression. (b) The second most popular topic is anxiety. (c) Nearly 1 in 5 texters mentions self harm. (d) Another common topic is family issues.
Does that make you a mental health initiative or a tech company?
Good question! We think of ourselves as a tech company (not-for-profit) that is focused on mental health.
Hi Nancy, I'm one of your Crisis Counselors (CCs), and I love that you are doing this. Are there any plans to make Crisis Text Line International and if so, would you tell us more about that? Also, what professional successes are you most proud of?
Hi! Thanks for being a Crisis Counselor!!! (Maybe people will reply here asking you about that experience!)
International expansion: yes! We expect to launch in Canada and the UK in the fall. And, expect more countries in 2018 and 2019. We are very excited to bring our service to people around the world--especially to places where there are few options. We're also excited about the data from these countries! Imagine the things we will learn and be better able to impact!
My own professional success? My favorite moments as a leader are when I see an employee find his/her swim lane and nail it. Running startups, I tend to have a lot of twentysomethings on staff. They are experiencing so much for the first time--falling in love, losing a parent, living on their own, etc. They are figuring so much out--including what they're good at, how they like to set up their desk, what motivates them, etc. Its a privilege to work alongside with people as they navigate these life moments and work style. Seeing people find themselves? Oh! Those have been my fav moments.
Where do you see room for growth at Crisis Text Line for employees/new hires who do not have a background in mental health or tech?
I didn't have a background in mental health or tech! Now I do. When I hire people, I'm looking for 3 things (adapted from DJ Patil): (a) Would we want to be in a bunker with you? (So, are you boring or an asshole? Pass!) (b) Can you hit a homerun in 90 days? We move fast. You game? (c) Are you capable of doing something amazing in 4-6 years? Don't come here and coast--we want people who like to learn, ask questions, try new things.
So, I don't really care where you went to school (or if you went to school!) And it doesn't matter who your daddy is. We're looking for attitude, capabilities, and skills. In that order.
Nancy: Whats your favorite subreddit?
Who inspires you, as an entrepreneur / otherwise?
What do you look for in one of your volunteers? How long do they typically last? Is burnout a problem?
There are lots of entrepreneurs who fall in love with the product or the ability to make something--ie, you have the ability to make purple ketchup and so you ship it.
For me, I make things for people. I get inspiration from people. I dig solving actual people's problems.
Right now, that means making things for our Crisis Counselors. These volunteers are incredible people, using their free time to help strangers. If I could kiss every one of these volunteers on the mouth, I would! Instead, we spend most of our time thinking about products and policies to make this volunteer work more rewarding, more predictable, easier, etc.
Hi Nancy!! So awesome you are doing this! As one of your CCs, I would like to ask you about the biggest challenges to recruiting and retaining volunteers in this space?
PS - if anyone is thinking of volunteering, DO IT! You won't regret it!!
Volunteering isn't for everyone. It takes a special kind of person to be a Crisis Counselor. (Thank you!!) Since these people have unusual knack for empathy--they are also caregivers in their daily life. So, teachers, moms, that sister who takes care of everyone, that guy in your college dorm who just seems to always be there to help. So, these are busy people! And their lives can get messy. Sometimes, we lose them to "life things" and thats a bummer.
do you think Rey's training montage will be lame w/o Yoda?
Breaking my heart. Sigh. Yoda. Miss you, buddy.
I mean, she mastered the force in like 6 minutes. THAT bummed me out. (Not a Force Awakens fan...)
What do you think is the biggest obstacle to growth/reaching more people for Crisis Text Line? Any ideas on how to overcome it?
We are essentially a marketplace--like Etsy, AirBnb, Lyft, etc... The key to marketplaces is nailing the supply-side. (Does Etsy have enough great sellers? Does AirBnb have lots of great inventory in key locations? Does Lyft have drivers at 2am in the rain?)
So, our challenge is making sure we have enough Crisis Counselors and that they have a terrific experience.
I always enjoy asking busy entrepreneurs what their work schedules are and how they fight procrastination. So, what is yours, and how do you?
I have a one-touch rule. If I open it, I finish it.
Powerful! So how do you quiet your inner demon telling you to go procrastinate on reddit?
What? Didn't hear that.
If you could give one piece of advice to every person texting in for help, what would it be?
Remember that you are strong. You made a brave choice reaching out for help. That was a super step. Give yourself some credit for making that smart move!
Do you ever have issues with providing mental health services across state lines? Would it be different if it were voice calls than text? Thank you! Young therapist here interested in distance/digital therapy to open up mental health to more people.
First, thanks for entering the field of therapy! Yay!
Second, we are not therapy. We believe in it and sometimes refer people to other things and places for that kind of support. We are crisis intervention--we don't diagnose and we're not intending to be long-term care.
Sooo, we don't trigger many of the guidelines for mental health professionals.
However, there are state-specific things like local resources, mandatory reporting requirements, etc.
How has Crisis Text Line informed your opinion of mental health in the US, and anything that the national policy conversation should include but currently doesn't?
We need more on-the-ground resources!!! We send 4% of our texters to an offline referral. (Think rape kit, substance abuse clinic, hospital, etc.) Sometimes it is hard to find good options. There need to be more clinics, more professionals in schools, more options! And it all needs to be at low cost or no cost.
Without these resources, many people turn to emergency rooms. This is expensive for the individual (and our country!) And, the emergency room is often not the best care option for people with mental health issues.
Who do you think The Last Jedi is? (I think Luke)
Yeah, I think Luke is a pretty good guess. The film certainly is set up to be about him. But its pretty clear that Rey (and Kylo Ren) have that Jedi thing in them. (Please don't make me reference midichlorian counts...) So, it is possible that there are others...
Hey, Nancy! I am also one of your CCs and I want to thank you for all of the opportunities you have given to me! What do you think we can do to spread the word of CTL to those in need?
We have done zero marketing of our service. We just keep growing via word-of-mouth. So, the best thing you can do is share your authentic feelings about us!
A anonymous person once posted on Imgur that we saved his/her life. It went viral and sent a ton of traffic our way--how beautiful that one great experience resulted in other people finding help too!!!
How much is Clint your favorite CC?
Clint is my favorite CC named Clint. How much? From here to the moon...and back.
Hi Nancy! I'm also one of your crisis counselors, and I think the platform that we use to respond to texters is pretty amazing. How did you manage to take this nationwide 'text response system' idea and turn it into a reality?
Hi! Thanks for volunteering!!
I found a genie lamp. I rubbed it. And with my 3 wishes I got Chris Johnson as founding CTO, Bob Filbin as founding Chief Data Scientist, and a lot of luck along the way.
Hey Nancy! CC here (from NY, so hoping to come and check out HQ one day soon!), and I want to know what you envision as the next step for CTL. If there were to be a spiritual successor, what would it be? Thanks for everything you do and the opportunities you've given us!!
Thanks for volunteering!
We want to help as many people as we can--in ways that make them feel stronger. We're already in Facebook Messenger and Kik. Expect us to expand to other messaging platforms.