My name’s Tim Reierson (he/him, RYE er sun). In April 2020 I began as a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line and was immersed in the goodness of the organization.
Two months later, when founder and CEO Nancy Lublin was fired, I began researching the organization more deeply. I started asking questions about how the organization was using transcripts of the conversations as data.
The organization had answers, but after I’d gained some experience on shift, those answers didn’t satisfy me. The persons I had the privilege of conversing with taught me some things. They taught me about what it means to struggle, to really struggle with suffering and pain of all kinds. They taught me that making it through a day could be an accomplishment, an achievement, unlikely to be recognized in our society or systems of care. They taught me about respect, and I knew they were fully deserving of it. Dignity, autonomy and respect in care is what persons in crisis deserve.
I knew that persons using the service could not possibly give consent at entry to the service for what Crisis Text Line was doing. I knew it would be inappropriate to ask for that permission at entry to the service. While still within the organization, I refused to stop asking my questions, and I refused to quit volunteering. In the end I was terminated.
Crisis Text Line corporate is not going to change easily. They have too much at stake financially and too much at stake in all the connections it brings to research, donors, institutional support, and support from private corporations.
There is a mix of bad with the good, which makes it harder to sort out. I hope the information presented here makes the sorting easier.
Organizations tend to resist change, but they absolutely can change. Crisis Text Line can continue to grow its crisis response service. At the same time, it can stop using crisis conversation transcripts as data.
I’m not a data scientist, data ethicist, or health professional. I bring my own life experience, what I’ve learned from others, and my own sense of right and wrong. I hope to learn something from you.
Above all, this site is intended as a safe place to express concern about data ethics, and hope for reform. Take your time.
Thanks for visiting.
Pacific Crest Trail between Bridge of the Gods and Trout Creek.