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Suicide Prevention Hotlines: Saving Lives

hello?When a person feels suicidal, communicating is not any easy task.

Even the simplest decision can be hard to navigate. The focus is on the pain.

Some people with mental illness find it hard to talk during times of crisis, especially with those that have never had suicidal thoughts.

This includes family and friends.

People with mental illness that have experienced, or are at risk to experience suicidal thoughts or behaviors, should have a plan in place to help themselves before they are in crisis.

Talking with someone that has training and empathy for people at risk for suicide is a very effective tool to prevent those with mental illness from harming themselves.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK [8255]) is perhaps the best known helpline for people with mental illness in the United States.

You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Once you dial, you have the option of pressing 1 for the Veterans line. There is also a line for Spanish speakers (Press 2).

For the hard of hearing, you can dial via TTY: 1-800-799-4889.

Best of all, it is toll-free and completely confidential.

Your call is quickly routed to the nearest crisis center in a national network of more than 150 crisis centers.

How Do I Know If I’m in Crisis?

Here are some common signs that someone is in crisis:

  • Hopelessness (feeling like there is no way out)
  • Anxiety, agitation, or mood swings
  • Sleeplessness
  • Feeling like there is no reason to live
  • Rage or anger
  • Engaging in risky activities
  • Increasing drug or alcohol abuse
  • Withdrawing from family and friends

These symptoms require immediate attention:

  • Thinking about hurting or killing yourself
  • Looking for ways to kill yourself
  • Talking about death, dying, and/or suicide
  • Self-destructive behavior such as drug abuse, weapons use, etc.

Remember, when in doubt, it is best to call the crisis line.

What Can I Expect?

The trained men and women on the suicide prevention lifeline provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.

Crisis line volunteers are usually accredited, licensed, or certified by an external body.

Crisis volunteers may have different experiences with mental health, like having depressed family members, or a previous suicide in the family.

Some may have no personal experience but just want to help.

These volunteers may be training to become a doctor or other mental health professional.

Most importantly, though, all of them are there to listen. They don’t want you to commit suicide.

They are there to help you talk, and if needed, direct you to a local treatment area.

Try to be open. They might not always say the right thing, but they can help you get through the moment.

Lifeline Resources around the World

NOTE: All calls from 1-800-SUICIDE have been routed through the lifeline since 2007.

United States

The Trevor Lifeline

Crisis intervention and Suicide Prevention for LGBTQ youth


Chat Line:

Veterans Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-TALK, then Press 1

Confidential Live Veterans Chat:

Boys Town

“Saving Children, Healing Families”

Help at the End of the Line 24-7

Call: 1-800-488-3000



Distress Centers Ontario:



United Kingdom

Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)

Or Visit:


My Experience

The two women that helped me when I called quickly stabilized me and informed me about what I should do when I felt this way and where I could go.

They were able to distract me and evaluate whether I needed help. Even though I do not know these women, I wish I could give them a big hug. They helped save my life.


Have you ever called a suicide prevention lifeline? How was your experience? If you haven’t, what do you think about them so far?             


Photo Credit: splityarn via Compfight

Suicide Prevention Hotlines: Saving Lives

Kat Dawkins

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APA Reference
Dawkins, K. (2019). Suicide Prevention Hotlines: Saving Lives. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Mar 2019
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