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What are Crisis Hotlines?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Crisis hotlines are phone numbers one can call if one is in the midst of an emotional crisis or breaking point. The first crisis hotlines were for those contemplating suicide. Now there are a number of crisis hotlines for different topics, such as those for homeless teens, those struggling with addiction, and for victims of domestic violence or rape.

The first crisis hotlines were actually available in Britain in the 1950s. Australia set up its first hotline in the 1960s. The US did not have firmly established crisis hotlines until the 1970s. Crisis hotlines now exist in most major cities of the US, and often have 800 numbers, which make them free to callers. There are also a number of crisis hotlines throughout Europe and in Canada.

There are hotlines for victims of domestic violence.
There are hotlines for victims of domestic violence.

Crisis hotlines are usually staffed by trained workers, who are available 24 hours a day to help people make the next step toward finding resources to help them through a difficult time. Usually, workers answer phones in shifts, and their work is overseen by counselors who can step in and assist if the worker is unable to help the person in crisis.

Some hotlines help those who are homeless.
Some hotlines help those who are homeless.

Few studies have been done to establish the helpfulness of crisis hotlines. Since most conversations are treated as confidential, it is difficult to glean statistics from individual hotlines. However, proponents for crisis hotlines argue that simply being available and even being able to prevent just one suicide, or help one person who has been violated, justifies funding.

Crisis hotlines are usually staffed by trained workers who are available 24 hours a day.
Crisis hotlines are usually staffed by trained workers who are available 24 hours a day.

One way in which crisis hotlines can be very challenging to the person in crisis is if a person must wait on hold, or not be able to reach the hotline at all. Reaching an answering machine instead of a live person is likely to influence a person to carry on with a suicide attempt rather than waiting for a callback.

For this reason, crisis hotlines need funding to remain fully staffed. Crisis hotlines should also find a way of letting people know if the hotline is not staffed round the clock. Thus people calling will not experience what they consider rejection if they call and do not reach someone immediately.

Crisis hotlines may help children who have abusive parents.
Crisis hotlines may help children who have abusive parents.

A variant of the crisis hotline is a warmline. Warmlines tend not to be staffed at all times of the day, but do offer callbacks to those who need assistance. Warmlines exist for parents needing help with significant parenting issues, for those with addiction, and for those requiring assistance in other areas.

A warmline may not be overseen by a counselor, but may be staffed by only one or two dedicated people with special knowledge in the area to which the warmline caters. Additional crisis help and advice is now available on the Internet for those encountering emotional difficulties in a variety of areas. However, many feel that nothing can replace the experience of actually talking to a person when one needs immediate assistance.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon26698

What are the steps to developing and implementing a hotline in a community?

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    • There are hotlines for victims of domestic violence.
      By: Dan Race
      There are hotlines for victims of domestic violence.
    • Some hotlines help those who are homeless.
      By: Halfpoint
      Some hotlines help those who are homeless.
    • Crisis hotlines are usually staffed by trained workers who are available 24 hours a day.
      By: Aleksndr Login
      Crisis hotlines are usually staffed by trained workers who are available 24 hours a day.
    • Crisis hotlines may help children who have abusive parents.
      By: Piotr Wawrzyniuk
      Crisis hotlines may help children who have abusive parents.
    • Faith based hotlines use the Bible for inspiration when helping people in crisis.
      By: manaemedia
      Faith based hotlines use the Bible for inspiration when helping people in crisis.
    • Crisis hotlines may be able to help people stop from engaging in risky behavior.
      By: ambrozinio
      Crisis hotlines may be able to help people stop from engaging in risky behavior.