Crisis text line to release massive data set to researchers

    A crisis-intervention organization is making a huge data set available to researchers that could offer some new insights into mental health issues.

    Volunteer counselors at Crisis Text Line have exchanged more than 13 million messages with people from all over the country.

    The organization planned right from its launch in 2013 to make data available, and set things up that way — getting the OK from texters to use some of their information while protecting their privacy.

    “The volume is at this point around 40,000-50,000 messages per day,” said Bob Filbin, chief data scientist for the organization. “This makes it the largest data set on crisis in the U.S.”

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    The data will boost research on complicated mental health issues, Filbin said, and it could offer insight into issues such as suicidal thoughts — and how they vary during specific times of year, or times of day.

    “Researchers have been relying mostly on survey data collected every other year. This data set offers a much more consistent, high volume variety of data that will allow researchers to explore aspects of crisis that they haven’t before,” he said.

    Filbin has already received more than 80 emails from interested researchers who want to use the data. Many of them are experts in the field of suicide prevention, he said.

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