Texting for support? Read this Q&A with a Crisis Responder.
What happens when I text? Who answers my texts? What can I text about? Here, Crisis Responder Aliesha answers important questions about Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone.
In 2018, Kids Help Phone partnered with Crisis Text Line to pilot an innovative texting service in Manitoba. Over the past year, we’ve expanded this service to every province and territory, giving young people across Canada the opportunity to reach out for confidential, volunteer-led, text-based support 24/7. As of August 2019, we’ve received over 100,000 texting conversations, and our volunteer Crisis Responders have always been there to answer.
One of those Crisis Responders is Aliesha. Since she joined us in February 2018, Aliesha has supported youth during 1,000+ texting conversations — mostly during overnight shifts — on the Platform (the technology Crisis Responders and Texting Supervisors use to interact with texters.) Here, Aliesha shares a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be a Crisis Responder for our texting service!
“My name is Aliesha. I’m married, have two stepchildren ages 14 and 17, and have two ‘fur babies’ — a dog and a cat.
I graduated post-secondary school doing an online college program. I received a Teacher’s Assistant/Educational Assistant diploma while specializing in Child Psychology. I currently work for the City of Toronto, in the After-School Recreation Care (ARC) program, where I’m the onsite Supervisor at a school. There, I work with six- to 12-year-olds and provide a safe place for them to learn, play and grow.
I decided to become a Crisis Responder for many reasons, but the main one was that I wanted to give back to a service that helped me. Kids Help Phone helped me in many ways when I was struggling with mental ill-health. That was my motivation, just to give back. And a year and a bit later, I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.”
“To sum up my role as a volunteer Crisis Responder, I’m here to help people go from a hot moment, to a cool calm. We’re here to help texters feel less alone and give them tools they can use on their own. Sometimes, texters just want to vent, and especially during the night, they may be alone and have no one to turn to. That’s where we come in. Just to be there for them in whatever they are dealing with. We’re here to make sure they’re safe, and if they need additional support outside our scope, I can provide some to them through the Resources Around Me tool, which texters can also access online.
I feel that is the hardest part as a Crisis Responder — to realize that you can’t help everyone. Not everyone is ready to get help and that can be hard to accept. You just have to be there for them in the moment and not pressure them into making a decision on the spot. You can give them all the tools and resources/services, but it’s up to the person who texted in to use them. You just have to keep going. That’s the best advice I can give both Crisis Responders and texters.”
“Texters can write anything initially to get the process started. Then, they’ll receive a quick introduction about the texting service. A ‘What’s on your mind’ message is sent to the texter shortly after. That’s where the texter can share what they’re struggling with, whether it’s suicidal thoughts, self-injury, bullying, anxiety, etc. — no topic is off limits.
The magic happens once a Crisis Responder connects with a texter. Oftentimes, texters think they’re talking to a robot, and may opt out of using our service right off the bat. I usually tell them that I’m as real as they come. Texters sometimes ask me for advice, but it’s our job to empower them and help them gain control of their life.
Regardless of the outcome of any texting conversation, I just hope that I’ve made a small difference in a texter’s life. Some conversations are tough, and some hit close to home, as I experienced a lot during my teenage years. I find that I can sympathize with the texters on what they’re going through, because I’ve been through it myself. It took me a while to open up about what I’ve been through. I know taking that first step is hard.”
“To sum up what we discuss with texters — we talk about everything big or small. Most conversations I have are with texters who are anxious about something. However, nothing is off limits. We can text about anything, including school, bullying, emotional well-being, etc. If I feel they would benefit from counselling services, I’ll usually let them know there are counsellors available through Kids Help Phone’s Live Chat and phone services. I’ll even look for other services near them if needed.”
“The type of support we provide can vary depending on the situation or crisis the texter is facing. I’ve helped texters safety plan when they are experiencing suicidal thoughts or thinking about self-injuring. I’ve done active rescues where the Texting Supervisor on the Platform calls emergency services (for example, when a texter reaches out and shares they’re in immediate danger). Sometimes, the best support I can provide is just an ear (or eyes in this case) and to be there for them. At the end of the day, all of our texters deserve to feel heard and supported. My goal is to provide them with some tools to make their life a bit easier, and to make sure they’re safe, too.
In addition, we don’t necessarily focus just on texters who are in crisis. Some texters may just want to talk about school, exploring themselves, marriage, relationships or home life, and although not every situation is a crisis, we’ll support them regardless.”
“I think having a texting service that’s available across Canada is important in many ways. With technology evolving like it is, texting is the new norm. Some texters find talking to someone either over the phone or even in person is too ‘in-your-face’ and having the freedom to share what you are going through in writing can help in many ways. I’m a writer myself, so I can totally relate when texters say they love our service because they can express themselves and take the time to respond without the added pressure.”
“The one thing I’d like to tell people who are curious about our texting service would be this: don’t be afraid to reach out. We’re here to listen and support you in all aspects of life, and we’re not here to judge. We support everyone and we’re a safe space to share anything — big or small. It can be scary to take that first step in getting help, but you are strong. You are important. You deserve to feel supported and heard. Kids Help Phone has your back 24/7. You are not alone.”
“Just like how we promote self-care with our texters, as a Crisis Responder, my self-care routine is important, too. When I finish a night shift, I like to spend time with my dog. I sometimes go for a walk with her around the block. I like to play games on my phone or watch a TV show. Majority of the time, I usually just go to bed, as sleep is important.”
Kids Help Phone would like to thank Crisis Responder Aliesha and the Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone team for their participation in this story. If you are a young person who needs support, you can reach out via phone (by calling 1-800-668-6868), Live Chat or text (by texting CONNECT to 686868) at any time.
*Published May 2019