My short bio: Founder of Crisis Text Line. Previously CEO of and Founder of Dress For Success. Author of XYZ Factor, Zilch, and the 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:

Comments: 96 • Responses: 32  • Date: 

taliabrooks8 karma

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!)

NancyLublin10 karma

Ahhh! Hi!!! Apparently it will be in October. Hoping to finalize the location in next two weeks. Wheeeee!!!

Skylar_Blue996 karma

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?

NancyLublin6 karma

Hi! Thanks for being a Crisis Counselor!!! (Maybe people will reply here asking you about that experience!)

NancyLublin7 karma

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!

NancyLublin6 karma

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.

Alotofmoose4 karma

What percentage of your staff have a background in the mental health field?

NancyLublin7 karma

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!)

iTzExotix4 karma

I have actually been going through a really tough time lately and just used Crisis Text last night. I also did it when I was extremely suicidal about a year ago. I just wanted to thank you guys for saving my life.

So, what sort of music are you listening to recently?

NancyLublin5 karma

Welp. This just made my day. Thank you for reaching out for help. Thank you for sharing your feels here. Thank YOU for that gratitude--unnecessary, and appreciated.

Music? Duran Duran on Pandora is my jam.

FrostySpoon4 karma

You're killing it, Nancy! Startups and nonprofits always seem to be the golden places to work. What's your philosophies in regards to office culture? What have you learned working with so many "millenials"?

NancyLublin2 karma

I enjoy the energy millennials bring to a culture. They question everything--and that keeps me on my toes. It forces me to avoid making arbitrary decisions or directives--so many employees are doing things for the first time, which means there are lots of "teaching/learning" moments.

I will confess that I am exhausted at the end of the day. Always being "on" and being as flat as possible, including voices and ideas, is wonderful and work! When I get home at night, I am pooped!

novicebekindson3 karma

Are you hiring? Please?

NancyLublin3 karma

Yes! We post jobs here:

karyotyped3 karma

What do you think is the biggest obstacle to growth/reaching more people for Crisis Text Line? Any ideas on how to overcome it?

NancyLublin6 karma

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.

greenbottlerobot3 karma

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?

NancyLublin4 karma

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.

liz4london3 karma

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!!

NancyLublin7 karma

Hi!!! 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.

iTzExotix2 karma

How does one go about becoming a crisis counselor? CTL has brought me back from the brink and it would make my heart soar if I could pay that forward.

NancyLublin2 karma

You can apply to be a Crisis Counselor at Lots of people have been inspired by their own mental health issues. Please just make sure you feel strong and have self care plans in place!

Brady13414163 karma

If you could go back and do something over in the process of starting this organization, what would you do differently?

NancyLublin6 karma

Best part of my job is being on the platform alongside Crisis Counselors, helping people too. But for the first two years, I wasn't on there. I think I was scared I would suck at it. I was worried that it would cloud my judgement. And, I was wrong.

Using the product makes me more thoughtful, more empathetic, better at my job.

If I was CEO of Alpo, I'd eat dogfood every day.

owlsandwich3 karma

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?

NancyLublin13 karma

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.

cristiano_sequeira3 karma

Hello Nancy,

I always enjoy asking busy entrepreneurs what their work schedules are and how they fight procrastination. So, what is yours, and how do you?

NancyLublin5 karma

I have a one-touch rule. If I open it, I finish it.

cristiano_sequeira2 karma

Powerful! So how do you quiet your inner demon telling you to go procrastinate on reddit?

NancyLublin3 karma

What? Didn't hear that.

erockmrtnz3 karma

What has been the biggest innovation that Crisis Text Line has brought to crisis intervention?

NancyLublin5 karma

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.

erockmrtnz2 karma

Does that make you a mental health initiative or a tech company?

NancyLublin7 karma

Good question! We think of ourselves as a tech company (not-for-profit) that is focused on mental health.

awkwardopossum3 karma

Hiya Nancy!

I'm also a fellow CC. What advice do you have for folks who are active CCs and want to become more active with CTL? Do you think that in the future CTL will offer more telecommute positions?

NancyLublin2 karma

Hi! Thanks!

About half our staff is outside NYC. We have a small team in SF and Durham and a handful of people scattered around the USA, 1 in Canada, and 1 in Barcelona!

This is hard work--emotionally. So, we prefer to cluster people and are focused on growing in NYC, SF, and Durham for now.

alikidisciple2 karma

What is the biggest hurdle with starting a non-profit?

NancyLublin2 karma

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.

FrostySt2 karma

What is the most frequent crisis you see in Crisis Text Line?

NancyLublin8 karma

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.

samwise09122 karma

On a personal level, what are some of your favorite films?

NancyLublin2 karma

Star Wars 3, 4, 5, 3.5, 1, 2, 3, 7. (Order of love to not-so-much.)

RicFlairwoo2 karma

Hi Nancy,

I love the idea of the crisis text line in that it gives a new, more casual and comfortable medium to reach out for those in need. Many people I know in the millennial demographic experience moderate to high levels of social anxiety, and the difference between having to speak to someone in person / over the phone and via text can be a game changer.

Though the millennial generation seems to be more open to reaching out and speaking more openly about mental health, it seems that one of the demographics that could benefit the most from your service is the baby boomer generation (55+ and recent retirees) who are far less likely to reach out due to social programming and stigmas associated with mental health during their upbringing. It seems that folks in this demographic, who are very unlikely to reach out for conventional counselling, might be more open to something like the crisis text line service , as it doesn't require them to go through the motions of making an appointment etc , and removes many of the barriers that might have stopped them from reaching out previously.

Do you have any strategies to market your service/ demonstrate its accessibility to this older demographic?

Also, is the service available in Canada/ are there plans to expand our way?

I'd like to finish by saying the work you do is amazing.

All the best!

NancyLublin2 karma

Yes! We would love to help more older people--especially middle aged men, who are most likely to die by suicide. Right now, only 20% of our texters are over age 25.

We haven't done any marketing yet--like, at all. We've just grown organically. And I think thats part of why we skew so young--its a lot of sharing on social media platforms.

Given that we are growing steadily, not sure we will spend money on marketing (but never say never!) Still, it would be terrific to help a more diverse age group.

So, let me turn this back on you: how bout helping us spread the word to older people? :)

askClint2 karma

How much is Clint your favorite CC?

NancyLublin5 karma

Clint is my favorite CC named Clint. How much? From here to the moon...and back. Obvi.

Lady_BeepBop1 karma

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?

NancyLublin7 karma

Thank YOU!! 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!!!

hello-ilikeyou1 karma

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?

NancyLublin5 karma

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.

sbkeith1501 karma

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?

NancyLublin5 karma

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.

ampletime51 karma

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.

NancyLublin6 karma

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.

rickmuscles1 karma

Who do you think The Last Jedi is? (I think Luke)

NancyLublin2 karma

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...

rickmuscles1 karma

do you think Rey's training montage will be lame w/o Yoda?

NancyLublin3 karma

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...)

PackStar1 karma

If you could give one piece of advice to every person texting in for help, what would it be?

NancyLublin14 karma

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!

conormichael1 karma

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!!

NancyLublin3 karma

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.