The idea for Crisis Chat started back in 2009 when a group of Crisis Call Centers in the United States began talking about new ways to serve people in crisis. For years, Crisis Call Centers had served people via crisis hotlines, but it was becoming more and more obvious that we needed to start thinking differently. Young people were not calling us; unsolicited emails were coming to our center asking for help and other Crisis Centers around the world, including in the U.K., New Zealand, and Israel, had already started online crisis chat programs with overwhelming success. Three Crisis Centers in the United States (in Albany, Austin, and Baton Rouge) decided it was finally time to start a national service in the United States.
CONTACT USA, a national organization dedicated to providing consultation and accreditation services to Crisis Centers, adopted the program and invested in the creation of a website to launch the service. Chat service began in August 2010; with minimal advertising, chat service steadily grew from only a few chats per day to 60 chats per day in 2012. As chat volume grew, CONTACT USA added more Crisis Centers, providing them with technical support and a national website platform to launch from. The service was enormously popular and it quickly became apparent that the centers could not keep up with the number of chat requests coming in and the call for expanded hours from the chat visitors themselves.
Since this time, Crisis Centers have struggled with the internal resources necessary to keep up with the high number of people in distress that desperately need to connect with someone kind, compassionate and caring in their time of greatest need. These young people on chat are not comfortable calling a hotline and did not have a way to reach out for help before Crisis Chat. They prefer the safety and anonymity of talking online.
Sixteen centers now provide service on the portal in twelve states including the three founding centers. The other centers are in: Springdale, Arkansas; Pennington, NJ; Albuquerque, NM; Jackson, MS; Seattle, WA; Iowa City, IO; Wilmington, DE; Nashville, TN; and five centers in Maryland.
Why Online Help Services Work
In 2011, 42% of the chat visitors were thinking about suicide at the time they chatted with us and 15% of chat visitors had tried to kill themselves in the past. Crisis Chat reaches a very high-risk population in need of support and saves lives every day.
Crisis Chat has learned that it is hard for people to find support for difficult life issues and in high crisis situations such as depression, anxiety, trauma, eating disorders, and bullying. Many chat visitors tell us that they don’t have the money to see a therapist, or they have had negative experiences in the past. Teenagers sometimes tell us that their parents don’t take their problems seriously, and don’t understand that they need mental health treatment. Others tell us that they already have a therapist and doctors supporting them, but talking with someone on anonymous chat helps them open up and say things that are hard to say in person. Some say that they won’t talk to anyone any other way – that talking about their problems is just too hard. For all these people, Crisis Chat is a critical support.
What We Need & What You Get
Crisis Chat needs to raise $60,000 in the next 60 days to increase its hours of operation during the spring and early summer months when suicide rates are at their highest. Crisis Chat will expand hours between 1 a.m. – 4 a.m. EST for three months. We have received so many requests from our chat visitors telling us that these are the hours we need to be open.
We want to be able to respond to requests like this one telling us what changes she would like to see on Crisis Chat:
“Longer hours. That’s the only thing. Sometimes at night or mornings I wish you were open. I know that’s hard to do but it would be appreciated.”
And others such as this one:
“I need this to be 24 hours round . :/..”
We want to avoid messages like this:
“l need this now. It's 12:03am I missed it by 3 minutes and the next times it’s open is 10 am tomorrow.”
We know our life-saving service needs to be open 24/7, please help us take the first step in this direction. If we don’t reach our entire goal, we will expand hours for one to two months, depending on the amount raised.
Your Contribution Will Specifically Help To:
● FUND - Crisis Centers
● ENABLE - 2-3 Chat Specialists per Center ($75/hr)
● INCREASE - hours of overnight operation, 3 hours/day for three months
● SAVE - lives with us!
Testimonies from people who have used Crisis Chat speak for themselves:
“Crisis Chat gave me hope in the simplest terms. They listen and it’s obvious that the people I talk to care. They try to help any way they can. I owe them not only my gratitude but my life. The people you speak with are kind and understanding and don’t judge you in any way. You don’t have to call a number. You have anonymity. I get anxiety with normal crisis phone lines but here I just simply have to type. It’s amazing. Crisis Chat makes an impact because if they weren’t there I think a lot of people might have not done anything about their problems. There’s nothing really like it and it’s amazing.”
“I’ve talked to [a chat specialist] on chat for 2 hours. He helped me sooo much! He is a Godsend. I've only done online chat 2 times and he was the second person I talked to. The first girl was on a different website for chat and she had no personality and I felt rushed. The chat specialist made me feel comfortable. Thank you guys for making this chat website! <3”
“Because of [my crisis worker’s] actions, my children still have a mother, my mom still has a daughter, my students still have a teacher...I still have a life. At the time, I was in intense pain and desperate to end the pain. The crisis worker stayed on the chat with me and continued to be compassionate. I had made it clear to her that I was done and also told her that I had started taking pills. Had she not acted in accordance with the law, and more importantly in accordance with what was right, I might not be here. Do I still suffer from severe depression, yes. Do I still have suicidal thoughts, yes. Am I still in pain, yes. Do I regret having used crisis chat, no. In fact, I have come back here a couple of times to get support. I have always found compassion and understanding. I think this is an incredible service and resource for those of us who are suffering and just need someone to listen to us.”
Video Production - Chris Gandin Le, Kalee Gower, Earnest Mazique and Meredith Stoner, Emotion Technology
Interviews - Nardeen Bilan and Laura Slocum
Text - Jill Wolski, CONTACT USA
Music - “Lookin for the One” ©
Music written, performed and arranged by Larry Pegg,
Recording, co-arrangement and performance by Steve McKenna
Produced by Steve McKenna and Larry Pegg
A very Special Thank You to the board of directors of CONTACT USA for its belief in the importance of Crisis Chat from the beginning and for its years of dedication to supporting its growth.