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R U There?

In the magazine this week, Alice Gregory writes about a crisis-intervention hot­line that conducts its conversations exclusively by text message:

The etiquette encouraged for counsellors can be surprising. When an agitated friend texts me bad news (a breakup, a layoff, a sudden rent increase), my instinct is to find a positive response to the predicament (“But you didn’t even like him!” “Now you can finally go freelance!” “MOVE!”). But this is precisely what one is not supposed to do when communicating with a teen-ager in crisis. Instead, counsellors are trained to deploy language that at first seems inflammatory: “You must be devastated” is a common refrain; so is “That sounds like torture.” The idea is to validate texters’ feelings and respond in a way that doesn’t belittle them.

Illustration by Cristiana Coucerio; photographs: Top to Bottom: Nick Vaccaro / The Image Bank / Getty; Anna Eckold / Moment / Getty; Atsushi Yamada / Photodisc / Getty