This study aimed to develop a reliable tool for the abstraction of data from crisis chat transcripts; to describe chatters’ suicide risk status and selected counselor behaviors; and to examine the relationship of chatters’ self-reported pre-chat suicidal thoughts to counselor behaviors and to chatters’ disclosures of suicide risk during the chat conversation.
Coders used an instrument developed for this study to abstract data from 1034 crisis chats handled by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Crisis Chat network in 2015. The relationship of transcript coding data to data from an automated pre-chat survey (PCS) was examined.
Lifeline Crisis Chat serves a young (median age = 21), high-risk population: 84.0% of chats (869/1034) came from chatters endorsing current or recent suicidal thoughts on the PCS. Counselors engaged in rapport-building on 93.3%, problem-solving on 70.1%, and suicide risk assessment on 67.7% of these 869 chats. Counselor risk assessment behavior, and the availability of information on suicide risk in the chat transcript, varied significantly by the chatter’s PCS response.
Crisis counselors are able to implement keystones of Lifeline’s crisis intervention model over the medium of online chat. Additional efforts are needed to ensure that suicide risk is assessed on every chat.