What to Expect When Calling a Crisis Hotline

What to Expect When Calling a Crisis Hotline

Suicide ranks as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. According to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, more than 48,000 Americans died by suicide in 2018. The sad truth is there were estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts in the same year.

Help is available

In light of such startling statistics, we want you to know help is available. One of the simplest ways to seek help is by calling a crisis hotline. Ready to take your call at any time, crisis counselors genuinely care and want the best for you. Every caller and situation are different, but the goal remains the same. The intention of each crisis counselor is to validate your feelings and provide the necessary resources towards getting the help you need.

You may feel confused, overwhelmed and maybe even ashamed. Know you are NOT alone. Although it is never easy to talk about suicide, it is vital to start the conversation before it’s too late. If you have ever experienced thoughts of suicide, please take action and seek help.

Think you need help?

According to Lifeline’s ‘Bethe1to’ campaign, here are a few warning signs to look out for in yourself or in a loved one.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Planning a way to end their life (eg. searching for a weapon)
  • Feelings of hopelessness or having no reason to live
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Experiencing extreme mood swings
  • Feeling like a burden and/or withdrawing from others
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Sleeping too little or too much

Please use this list as a guideline. There is no textbook definition nor universal way a person should feel or carry oneself. Warning signs may appear crystal clear or rather foggy. Remember, every feeling you have is real and deserves to be taken seriously.

While you may experience apprehension calling a crisis hotline, we are here to help break down the process piece by piece. Below, we’ve answered a list of frequently asked questions that give you a better understanding of what to expect when calling The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

1. Is there a fee to call?

Your call is free and completely confidential.

2. When can I call?

Support is available to anyone in distress, 24/7, 365 days a year.

3. How do I know if I should call?

Suicide is unpredictable and involves a variety of emotions. Please don’t wait to call until you feel you’ve run out of options. The helpline is available even if you just need some words of encouragement.

4. Who can call?

The helpline is open to anyone and everyone of any age. Calling for the safety of a loved one is equally warranted as well. In that instance, a crisis counselor will guide you through each step of supporting your loved one through their crisis.

5. Will someone pick up right away?

The National Suicide Prevention Line greets you with an automated message informing you that your call is being routed to a crisis center in your area. It is ideal to speak with a local crisis counselor who is familiar with the physical resources nearby in the event they are needed.

Wait times are usually under a minute but may vary depending on call volume and resources available in your area. While, a minute may feel like an eternity, please stay on the line. Help is on the way.

6. What if I feel judged by a crisis counselor?

A crisis counselor is equipped to listen, validate and guide you through your emotions in a non-judgmental manner. Additionally, they will likely ask you several questions in order to gain a better understanding of your situation. The most important thing to remember is a crisis counselor has your best intentions in mind and keeping you safe is their first priority. Depending on your state of mind throughout the call, they may also recommend further treatment options available.

7. Will they send emergency personnel to my location?

A drastic intervention is not the crisis hotline’s main objective. In most cases, a crisis counselor will develop a safety plan you are both comfortable following without further escalating the situation. Although rare, if the need arises, emergency personnel will be called for assistance. While confidentiality remains a top priority, your safety comes first.

It's okay to ask for help

You don’t need to suffer alone. Calling the suicide lifeline is never easy but as scary as it might be, we want to remind you it’s OKAY to ask for help. Picking up the phone could be the first step in saving a life. Suicide is complicated and not always predictable, but it IS preventable.

Click here for more information on other hotlines available.

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