When Should I Call a Depression Hotline?

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We’ll start by saying this plainly: Experiencing depression can be immensely debilitating. It isn’t uncommon to feel exhausted, isolated, and hopeless when in the throes of depression. Sometimes, depression can even lead to feelings of questioning if you want to be alive.

For this reason, mental health professionals have created depression hotlines. These are phone numbers you can call when all starts to feel bleak.

This article will refer to these numbers interchangeably as depression hotlines, suicide hotlines, and crisis hotlines and will help you identify the instances in which you might want to call a helpline.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

What Is Depression?

Depression is an incredibly common mood disorder, with 21 million adults experiencing at least one episode of major depression in their lifetime.

Depression is marked by intense sadness, but it is essential to know that sadness differs from being depressed. This analogy can help understand the difference: Sadness is like the daily weather, meaning it can change week to week, while depression is like the climate, meaning it is a steady-state of being. 

Fatigue, suddenly no longer enjoying things that once satisfied you, and a consistent feeling of sadness or emptiness are all tell-tale signs of depression. Depression is an experience that is so severe it impairs your daily functioning.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

As mentioned, symptoms of the various types of depression tend to overlap. Below is the diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). 

To receive a diagnosis of MDD, you’ll have experienced most of the following symptoms, most days out of the week, for at least two weeks, if not longer.

  • Constant sadness, anxious mood, or feeling of emptiness
  • Uncharacteristic feelings of pessimism 
  • Unexplained irritability
  • Fatigue that isn’t otherwise explained by other health ailments
  • Slowed down speech
  • Fidgeting or trouble sitting still
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of concentration
  • Sleep too much or too little
  • Decreased or increased appetite
  • Thinking of or attempting to take your own life
  • Somatic issues (i.e., headaches, stomach issues, body pains) that aren’t otherwise explained by other health ailments

Some may experience all of these symptoms; others may experience some of these symptoms. Seeing a mental health professional will help clarify if you’re experiencing depression and steps towards healing.

What Is a Depression Hotline?

A depression hotline is a number you call or text to chat with a trained crisis worker when you’re feeling mentally unwell. These hotlines serve as an intervention when one is feeling in danger of causing harm to themselves.

Calling a hotline when feeling mentally unwell is proven to be useful, with a recent study stating 69.2% of callers feel supported with the care received during their call.

There are many types of depression hotlines, though not all are referred to as depression hotlines. Scholarly journals that have researched these resources use the term depression hotline interchangeably with the terms crisis hotlines and suicide hotlines.

Depression is often at the root of crises and suicidal thoughts. It is safe to consider both crisis and suicide hotlines as forms of depression hotlines.

Popular Depression Hotlines

Below are some popular depression hotlines that are available should you need them:

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline focuses on supporting those considering taking their lives. A crisis center worker, someone who is trained to help those who are experiencing active suicidal ideation, will answer the phone.

They will non-judgmentally listen to what is coming up for you, provide support, and point you towards resources that can help.

How to Contact Them

You can reach them at 1-800-273-8255. You can also head to their website and use their chat function.

Samritans

Samaritans is a suicide prevention hotline that focuses on "befriending." Befriending means that they believe creating a warm and non-judgmental environment fosters a space where callers can feel safe to share what they are feeling.

How to Contact Them

You can call or text them 24/7 at ​​(877) 870-4673 (HOPE).

Crisis Textline

The Crisis Textline is a safe place you can text if you’re feeling overwhelmed by symptoms of depression. They can also support those experiencing eating disorders, emotional abuse, self-harm, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

How to Contact Them

You can reach them by texting HOME to 741741.

When Should I Call a Depression Hotline?

If you’re questioning if you should call a depression hotline, chances are it wouldn’t be a bad idea to call. At worst, you won't find their support helpful and will seek a licensed mental health provider instead.

At best, they may provide the support that changes the course of your life. You can also call anonymously, meaning you don’t have to share your real name if that feels safer for you.

Err on the Side of Caution and Reach Out

If you’re feeling hopeless and even find yourself wondering if life is worth living, it is time to reach out to a depression hotline. 

What to Expect When You Call a Depression Hotline

Reaching out to a depression hotline can be intimidating, but knowing what to expect can help. Below are some frequently asked questions.

What Happens When I Call the Hotline?

When calling a hotline, you can expect to talk to someone trained in handling emotional crises. They will remain non-judgmental, work to provide you with resources, and do everything they can to help you stay safe

The conversation will begin with being asked to share what prompted you to reach out to the hotline. From there, the counselor will help you sort through the feelings you're experiencing.

To get a better sense of your current situation and the support you may need, you might also be asked some questions about your safety, such as:

  • Are you in a safe place to talk?
  • Are you currently having suicidal thoughts? If so, how long have they been persisting?
  • Have you ever attempted to take your life?
  • Do you have a plan and/or the means to take your life?

What Happens If I Say I Am Suicidal?

In the case of someone who is suicidal calling a depression hotline, outcomes vary by the hotline. In the United States, hotlines will involve emergency services if the hotline counselor has assessed that the caller’s life is in danger.

Confidentiality is honored on hotline calls unless there is imminent danger and additional support must be involved.  

Do I Have to Share My Name?

Anonymity under all circumstances is a crucial principle if a hotline follows the Samaritan movement.

As such, these hotlines focus more on connecting with the caller, even when there is imminent danger, before involving any additional parties for support. This is done through a focus on empowerment, active listening, and maintaining non-directive communication.

What Types of Questions Can I Ask?

Remember, the hotline is here to support you. When you call, you can ask anything from what to do if you're having thoughts of harming yourself to where you can find mental health support.

If you're stumped on where to begin, below are some questions that are frequently asked:

  • I am scared and overwhelmed by my feelings. Can you help me?
  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • Am I experiencing depression?
  • How can I find a therapist?
  • I feel unsafe and like I am at risk of harming myself. Where can I go to get support?
  • What can I do if I feel like this again in the future?

What If I'm Calling a Hotline for a Loved One?

If you're calling for a friend or family member, they can advise you on ways you can support your loved one. This can look like developing an intervention plan where you can receive support around specific language to use, psychiatric facilities in the area that may have services you can access, and ways you can care for yourself in the midst of the crisis.

It can also look like providing education on depression and how you can be there for your loved one who is suffering while holding firm boundaries for your own emotional well-being.

If you're concerned about a loved one who is experiencing active suicidal thoughts, they can also provide insight into how you can help keep this person safe.

A Word From Verywell 

Life can present painful challenges but remember you are never alone. If you’re feeling like you’re wondering what the point of living is, please reach out for support—it could save your life. Take this article as a sign that you no longer have to suffer in silence, and it is time to get help. Your life depends on it.

4 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 Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Major depression statistics.

  2. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Depression.

  3. Hoffberg AS, Stearns-Yoder KA, Brenner LA. The effectiveness of crisis line services: a systematic review. Public Health Front. 2020;7:399. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2019.00399

  4. Heinz I, Mergl R, Hegerl U, Rummel-Kluge C, Kohls E. Depression stigma and management of suicidal callers: a cross-sectional survey of crisis hotline counselors. BMC Psychiatry. 2019;19(1):342. doi: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-019-2325-y

By Julia Childs Heyl
Julia Childs Heyl, MSW, is a clinical social worker and writer. As a writer, she focuses on mental health disparities and uses critical race theory as her preferred theoretical framework. In her clinical work, she specializes in treating people of color experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma through depth therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy.