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NonprofitI'm Nancy Lublin, Founder of Crisis Text Line and Dress for Success. Previously CEO of DoSomething.org... AMA!

Feb 15th 2017 by NancyLublin • 17 Questions • 130 Points

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

Q:

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!)

A:

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


Q:

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"?

A:

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, etc...it is wonderful and work! When I get home at night, I am pooped!


Q:

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

A:

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!)


Q:

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?

A:

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.


Q:

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?

A:

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.


Q:

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!!

A:

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.


Q:

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.

A:

You can apply to be a Crisis Counselor at CrisisTextLine.org 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!


Q:

Well thank you too!!! You guys are seriously heroes

A:

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!


Q:

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

A:

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...


Q:

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

A:

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...)


Q:

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?

A:

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!!!


Q:

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?

A:

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.


Q:

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

A:

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


Q:

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?

A:

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.


Q:

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

A:

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!


Q:

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.

A:

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.


Q:

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?

A:

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.