It’s important to know that you can, and should, call or text a hotline (formally known in the U.S. as Lifeline) even if you’re not suicidal but are experiencing emotional distress. I’m serious about this. You don’t have to wait until you’re on death’s door to talk to a professional crisis worker. Yes, I know their title is “crisis” worker but really what they are is educated people that are there to help you when you need help – whether you’re formally in a “crisis” or not. In fact, calling or texting a hotline, Lifeline, when you’re not suicidal might be the best thing you can do to save your own life.

Calling a Hotline, Lifeline Because of Distress Over Celebrity Suicides

The celebrity suicides of Anthony Boudain and Kate Spade have provoked many people to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) in the United States. According to CNN, counselors took 65% more calls and answered 116% more texts in the week following these suicides. When suicide is in the news, more people reach out to hotlines, Lifeline. This might be because these suicides bring about distress but it might also be because people suddenly feel that reaching out is okay as the national dialog suddenly seems to normalize the need to reach out because of feelings of distress.

This spike in numbers is actually a positive thing because it means that more people who needed help are getting it.

Why Would You Call or Text a Hotline, Lifeline If You’re Not Suicidal?

I strongly suspect that all those who called and texted the Lifeline in the U.S. were not suicidal. Many of these people were experiencing distress and called because of that, not necessarily because they were considering taking their own lives. This is a very good thing. Because if you can catch distress before it turns into suicidality, the chances of you saving your own life are that much greater. And, of course, the sooner you reach out for help, the less time you’ll have to spend in pain, which is a win no matter how you look at it.

According to the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, people call or text them for a variety of reasons including:

  • Substance abuse
  • Economic worries
  • Relationships
  • Sexual identity
  • Getting over abuse
  • Depression
  • Illness (including mental illness)
  • Loneliness

Any of these things, of course, can cause great distress and are worth reaching out over. Like I said, if you’re in pain, the goal is to stop that pain not to wait until it gets so severe it’s threatening to kill you. Believe me, waiting until you have that bottle of pills in your hand is not what you want to do.

About Calling or Texting the Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US

Of course, the vast majority of countries have one or more suicide hotlines (you can find information about them here, but for the sake of illustration, let’s use the U.S.’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as an example of what these hotlines are like.

It's important to know that you can call a suicide hotline, Lifeline, even if you're not suicidal. This can seem weird, but reaching out for help early is best.What Happens When You Call the Lifeline?

  1. Initially, you’ll hear a message telling you that you’ve reached the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
  2. You’ll hear hold music while you are being connected.
  3. A skilled, trained crisis worker who works at the Lifeline network crisis center closest to you will answer the phone.
  4. This person will listen to you, understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support and share any resources that may be helpful.

All calls are free and confidential.

And I’d like to point out it’s the sharing of resources that can be so helpful because it takes the help you can get from a suicide hotline into your daily life and allows you to get more in-depth help. Because as much as hotlines can help you, if you’re in that much distress you likely need more help than they can ultimately give.

And as I’ve mentioned, you can also text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (and they actually have online chat, too). This can be very helpful for those scared of actually talking to someone. If this is the way you choose to reach out, then that’s great – it’s the right way for you.

Experiences with Calling, Texting a Hotline, Lifeline When Not Suicidal

I will say that not everyone who calls a hotline has a positive experience. I know it’s really hard when you finally choose to reach out and the experience ends up being negative. I get why you wouldn’t want to do that again.

But please know that the people on the other end of the line really do want to help you and the resources they can point you towards can facilitate your wellness – and that’s what everyone wants for you.

So please remember, mental illness (and mental distress, for that matter) is like any other illness: the sooner you deal with it the better. If you catch it at an early stage you have a much better chance of beating it altogether. So reach out when you’re feeling distressed and don’t wait. Waiting could cost you your life.

(Similarly, if you’re worried about someone else, you should also call or text a hotline, Lifeline as soon as possible. These counselors are also trained to help you and point you towards resources too.)

Learn more about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline here.

Banner image by publik15.