Is There a Mental Health Hotline?

A List of Hotlines You Can Contact When You Need Help

person crying on the phone calling a hotline

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If you're going through a difficult time, you might feel that you'll benefit from mental health support. If you're in crisis, a crisis counselor at a mental health hotline can listen to you and provide you with adequate care. If you're in danger of harming yourself, they will be equipped to send emergency services to your location.

This article provides an overview of mental health hotlines that you can contact, and it describes the purpose of hotlines and what happens if you're at risk of harming yourself.

Why We Need Mental Health Hotlines

There are many reasons why mental health hotlines are needed—suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and completed suicide are all on the rise. Mental health hotlines are also crucial because:

  1. People in crisis are less likely to call an emergency service for help if they know a police officer will be dispatched. This is especially true for people in marginalized communities.
  2. Many police officers are not trained in mental health or mental-health-related calls, meaning they can't necessarily identify these issues or de-escalate them.
  3. There is a higher risk of injury or violence if an untrained police officer responds to a mental health call than if a trained mental health professional does. It's estimated that one in four people killed by police between 2015 and 2020 had a mental health condition.
  4. For police departments that do have personnel trained in mental health, they may not know when to dispatch them.

Below are some of the staggering numbers that indicate the need for mental health hotlines.

Suicide Statistics

  • 10% of adult Americans have thought about suicide.
  • 1.2 million Americans attempted suicide last year.
  • 90% of those who died by suicide had a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of death.
  • Only 46% of Americans age 18 years and older with mental health conditions have received treatment in the past year.
  • Only 28% of communities in the United States have enough providers to serve their residents.
  • Between the years 2000 and 2020, the suicide rate increased by nearly 30%.

It is estimated that at least 20% of police calls involve a mental health or substance use crisis, and that number is growing.

In a national survey of senior-ranking law enforcement officials, nearly 85% of those surveyed said that mental-health-related calls have risen over the course of their careers. And half of the additional time spent on mental health calls is due to a lack of easily accessible resources. 

With racially-motivated police brutality, many people trust police less. But police officers are also not the ones best equipped to handle these calls. While law enforcement officials are beginning to be trained in mental health first aid and crisis intervention, people who work full-time in this field are better equipped with the skills needed to handle these crises. (It's also worth noting that not all police departments provide mental health training, and the level of training provided varies.)

The following are SAMHSA's National Guidelines for Crisis Care:

  • Staffing: Regional crisis call centers, staffed 24/7 by trained individuals that provide crisis intervention capabilities (telephone/text/chat)
  • Crisis Response: Crisis mobile team response that can reach any person in the service area in their home, workplace, or anywhere the person in crisis might be located
  • Crisis receiving and stabilization facilities: Send people to a non-hospital environment, as psychiatric hospitalizations may also be traumatizing

Mental Health Hotlines You Can Call Depending On Your Needs

There are several different hotlines you can call if you're experiencing emotional distress, violence, trauma, and other issues that impact mental health.

Please note that these hotlines are not a replacement for therapeutic services; however, they can connect you with services and resources in your area.

Substance Use/Addiction & Mental Health Conditions

If you are dealing with a substance use disorder or a mental health issue (e.g., depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA), helpline can connect you with someone who can provide you with addiction and mental health help and refer you to other sources.

SAMHSA operates 24/7, 365 days per year, and offers service in English and Spanish.

Call SAMHSA at 1-800-662-4357

Child Abuse

Whether you're a victim of child abuse or know someone else who is or might be, you can contact the Childhelp National Abuse Hotline.

Not every state offers 24/7 support, so please check the website's map to determine what your state's hours of operation are. You can also receive a live support chat option on their website.

Call or text the Childhelp National Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453

Domestic Violence

If you or someone is a victim of domestic violence, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The domestic violence hotline offers 24/7 support and they also offer a live chat option on their main webpage.

Also, if you're concerned that someone will see that you're on this website, there's a large X icon at the top right of the homepage, that will allow you to exit the website immediately and redirect to a blank search window.

Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233

Text "START" to 88788

Disaster Distress

Natural or man-made disasters can be very traumatic. If you have been affected by a disaster, the SAMHSA's Disaster Distress Hotline can provide you with support.

Support is offered in all U.S. states and its territories. They are available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Call SAMHSA's Disaster Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990

Eating Disorders

If you or someone you know is dealing with an eating disorder, you can contact the
National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Helpline.

Please note that NEDA operates most of the year but is closed for specific holidays. They are also not open 24 hours per day. Please see their website for operational hour information.

NEDA also provides an online chat option. If you need immediate help, however, you can text their crisis line (this line does operate 24/7).

Call or text NEDA at 1-800-931-2237

For 24/7 crisis support, text “NEDA” to 741741

Sexual Assault

If you are a survivor of sexual violence, you can contact the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline. When you call the hotline, a trained staff member will provide a safe, confidential space for you to discuss what happened. They can also provide you with resources so you can get therapeutic support. They can also refer you to a care facility that can administer a forensic exam.

Call RAINN at 1-800-656-4673

LGBTQIA+

If you are a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, the LGBT hotline can provide sensitive and inclusive mental health support. For example, if you've been a victim of bullying or have concerns about coming out, they can provide resources and a listening ear.

This hotline is not available 24/7, so please check their website for their hours of operation.

Call the LGBT Hotline at 1-888-843-4564

LGBTQIA+ Youth

The Trevor Project offers mental health support to younger members of the LGBTQIA+ community. You can call, text, or chat online with a Trevor counselor.

The Trevor Project also provides an online community where LGBTQIA+ youth between the ages 13 and 24, can connect and support one another.

Call the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386

Text "START" to 678-678

Runaways

The National Runaway Safeline offers support to runaways and young homeless people. This hotline offers 24/7 support.

Call the National Runaway Safeline at  1-800-786-2929

You can also send an email by filling out this form.

Veterans & Service Members

If you are a service member and you're experiencing emotional distress, please contact the Veterans Crisis Line.

Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255

If You're At Risk of Harming Yourself

As of July 16, 2022, Americans will be able to call or text the number 988 if they are experiencing a mental health crisis. Signs of a mental health crisis may include:

  • You feel overwhelmed and you are neglecting self-care (such as personal hygiene).
  • You have disorganized or intolerable thoughts.
  • You're having suicidal ideation or you are self-harming.
  • You feel extreme panic, restlessness, and/or paranoia.
  • You are behaving violently toward yourself or others.
  • You've withdrawn from your usual activities or from other people.

The purposes of the number, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA):

  • Provide broader access to people experiencing a mental health crisis with an easy-to-remember three-digit number
  • Reduce unnecessary and unhelpful utilization of law enforcement professionals by connecting 988 call centers with local mobile crisis teams (when the crisis requires that level of escalation)
  • Reduce gaps in the mental health system by empowering crisis centers to maintain contact and follow up with those in crisis
  • Alleviate emergency room burden by providing assessment, evaluation, and crisis intervention in the community when possible
  • Meet the mental health needs of all in crisis while reducing stigma 

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act

In 2019, Senator Cory Gardner, a U.S. senator from Colorado, introduced the National SuicideHotline Designation Act. The state of Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation.

The bill was proposed to transition from the long, cumbersome number of the Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) to a number that is easier to remember in times of distress, works everywhere across the United States, and is instantly recognizable.

The bill is notable because it specifically calls out the higher rates of suicide among marginalized groups, including people who identify as LGBTQ+, Native American or Alaska Natives.

The bill is also important because it gives people who live in rural areas access to a resource they might not otherwise have.

On October 17, 2020, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act was signed into law, requiring all calls and texts sent to 988 to route to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by July 16, 2022.

Veterans and Military Members

Veterans, their families, and members of the military can text 838255 for a special Veteran’s Crisis Line.

What Happens When You Call a Mental Health Hotline?

If you're going through a rough time, need someone to talk to, or think you might be in danger of harming yourself, speaking with a counselor at a mental health hotline can provide you with emotional support or emergency services if necessary.

Hotlines Save Lives

Since 2005, the Lifeline has answered more than 20 million calls. One study shows that helpers on the lifeline were able to keep 76% of people at imminent risk safe with their collaboration.

Your Suicide Risk Will Be Assessed

The crisis counselor you connect with will ask you why you are calling or texting and assess your risk of suicide.

If You Are Not At Risk of Suicide

If the crisis counselor concludes that you are not at imminent risk of suicide (i.e. you don’t have a plan/means/intent to complete suicide within the next 24 hours), they will attempt to de-escalate you and provide you with follow-up services, such as how to find follow-up care in your area.

If You Are At Risk of Suicide

If the counselor determines that you are at imminent risk of suicide (or in the process of committing suicide), a list of best practices will be employed to handle the situation. Crisis counselors are there to help people work through a suicidal episode until they feel more stable, as well as to provide them with the resources they need moving forward.

The Role of the Crisis Counselor If You're at Risk

If it's been determined that you are at risk of committing suicide, the crisis counselor on the other end of the line will follow the best practices below:

  1. The crisis counselor will work with you to stabilize your symptoms.
  2. They will explore immediate threats in your environment.
  3. They will create a safety plan and provide you with resources based on your needs, like a referral to a therapist, psychiatrist or support group.
  4. They will ask about your immediate support group and ways they can help keep you safe.
  5. If your symptoms are stabilized, in most cases, the crisis counselor will provide you with resources and follow up with you.

In the event you do not feel you can keep yourself safe, the crisis counselor will talk to you about best practices to keep you safe. The counselor may also speak with you about potentially having a public safety official check in with you to make sure you are OK.

When the Counselor Must Take Action

The Lifeline’s policy statement reads that “Center Staff should only undertake such initiative without the at-risk individual’s expressed desire to cooperate if they believe that—without this intervention—the individual is likely to sustain a life-threatening injury.”

Beyond these immediate emergency steps, the community-based crisis programs then connect individuals with any further mental or physical healthcare providers.

They can also connect them to services including anything from acute inpatient hospitalization to short-term residential facilities, to community mental health clinics, in-home therapy, family support services, and therapeutic monitoring.

The ultimate goal, according to SAMHSA's website, is to prevent future episodes by fulfilling unmet needs on an individual level as well as promoting systemic change.

A Word From Verywell

At the time of publication confidence was low in the number’s successful rollout. The best mental health care is proactive, not reactive, so seek help before you’re in crisis, if you can.

17 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Police departments struggle to get cops mental health training.

  2. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Mental health by the numbers.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wisqars (Web-based injury statistics query and reporting system.

  4. Pew Research. New research suggests 911 call centers lack resources to handle behavioral health crises.

  5. U.S. Department of Justice. Training: Police Mental Health Collaboration Toolkit.

  6. SAMHSA. National Guidelines for Behavioral Health Crisis Care Best Practice Toolkit.

  7. SAMHSA. SAMHSA's National Helpline.

  8. Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline.

  9. RAINN. About the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline.

  10. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Navigating a mental health crisis.

  11. SAMHSA. 988 suicide and crisis lifeline.

  12. National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020, United States Public Law 116-172 (2020). 

  13. Federal Communications Commission. Fact sheet: 988 and suicide prevention hotline.

  14. Gould MS, Lake AM, Munfakh JL, et al. Helping callers to the national suicide prevention lifeline who are at imminent risk of suicide: evaluation of caller risk profiles and interventions implemented. Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2016;46(2):172-190. doi:10.1111/sltb.12182

  15. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Lifeline policy for helping callers at imminent risk of suicide.

  16. National Guidelines for Behavioral Health Crisis Care Best Practice Toolkit. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

  17. Cantor JH, Holliday SB, McBain RK, Matthews S, Bialas A, Eberhart NK, Breslau J. Preparedness for 988 Throughout the United States: The New Mental Health Emergency Hotline. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2022.