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Suicide Hotline: What Happens When You Call?

Ways of Contacting Suicide Hotlines

Because people in distress are all different, people choose to access suicide hotline services in different ways. Suicide hotlines provide a toll-free number, but many also provide online chat, email, and text messaging hotline services as well. You should choose to access a suicide hotline in the way that makes you the most comfortable. Calls to most suicide hotlines are confidential and free.

Who Answers a Call at a Suicide Hotline?

Suicide hotlines are typically staffed by trained personnel but it depends on the specific hotline as to how they're trained. Some suicide hotlines are manned by volunteers with minimal training whereas the operators at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, for example, are skilled, trained counselors that are often in your area.

Suicide hotlines that are for specific types of crises, such as the concerns of veterans or of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or queer (LGBTQ) individuals, are generally trained in the main issues facing those populations. Often you'll speak to a member of that group his or herself when you call that type of suicide hotline.

What Happens When You Call a Suicide Hotline?

Depending on the suicide hotline, your call may be routed to a central location or, as in the case of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, your call may be answered by the center closest to you. When you call, you'll typically hear a message confirming the number you have reached and then on-hold music until someone can answer your call.

Once your call is answered, a caring and trained person will listen to you, learn about your situation, ask questions and will then generally tell you about mental health services in your area. Services in your area can range from a mobile response team to a suicide prevention center staffed with counselors where you can be accommodated overnight.