Sensing the Need for Confidential Treatment, an Army Medic is Quietly and Effectively Helping his Comrades.
By Craig Winston
Craig Genteman, an Army medic for 11 years, was deployed multiple times to Iraq. This experience provided him the training for yet another job with life and death implications.
Genteman would become the first full-time employee of the Crisis Text Line from the military. Genteman supervised volunteer counselors, who have now logged more than 100 million text exchanges in helping more than hundreds of thousands of individuals since 2013.
“As a frontline medic in the Army I was known as a ‘force multiplier’ meaning as long as I was on patrol with my fellow soldiers it gave an extra sense of comfort knowing ‘Doc’ was there, and he was going to do his best to take care of us,” said Genteman. “The same idea applied to this job. All of the Crisis counselors are force multipliers — a beacon of light for that individual reaching out for help in a very dark corner. On any given night, our counselors could be knowingly or unknowingly saving someone’s life, and that is very powerful.”
The counselors are not therapists, however. They employ “active listening” to create a sense of calm so they can plan to maintain this state of being. About four percent of the texters get an offline referral for a local service. In some cases, the CTL will send help—if the texter is considered at “imminent risk.” There are more than 43 million adults with mental illness, including behavioral or emotional disorders. That’s 18.1 percent of U.S. adults. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that CTL, a free 24/7 resource accessible by smartphone or computer, has quickly become a go-to resource for those in need. Another reason for CTL’s overall success is the easing of privacy concerns among those who have texted Start to CTL’s 741-741 number. All callers’ identity and communication remain private, and they may even request to have their conversation deleted. Texts are more likely to include mental illness (four times as much) as text subjects, along with sexual abuse (three times) and physical abuse (two and a half times).
“The beautiful thing about Crisis Text Line is that these are strangers counseling other strangers on the most intimate issues, and getting them from hot moments to cold moments,” said CEO Nancy Lubin, who originally started the line to assist teenagers seeking help but expanded it to all that sought help.
By analyzing the data from the texts, the public and health professionals can be better prepared to deal with crises. Its framework allows for instant analysis. For example, it can show what hours of the day texters are most affected by physical abuse (7 p.m.), suicidal thoughts (8 p.m.), and anxiety (9 p.m.).
Visit Crisis Text Line at: www.crisistextline.org