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What Happens When You Call a Depression Crisis Hotline?

DISCLAIMER: If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or is in immediate danger, contact 911 right away for assistance.

Depression, referred to by many professionals as “the common cold of psychological disorders,” has both serious physical and emotional implications. Extreme fatigue, lethargy, hopelessness, and trouble focusing–these are just four of the many symptoms that make the mental illness so debilitating. So what does seeking support look like?

For many battling depression, the first step can be as small as making a phone call. After contacting a  mental health hotline, you are able to express your struggles in a confidential, judgement-free way. For some, these conversations  can be an important resource in learning how to seek depression treatment.  

a person holds a cell phone in their hand preparing to dial the depression hotline phone number
These phone conversations provide a virtual safe space where individuals are heard and listened to. Calling one of these numbers can be a refreshing experience for those opening up for the first time, and can sometimes even be life-saving.

But what exactly should  you expect  after you dial the toll-free lifeline number?

Picking up the phone can be intimidating. Knowing what to expect on the other line can make it easier to get started. When you call a depression lifeline number, be prepared for a couple of things:

  • Your call might be transferred to a local center.
  • You’ll be speaking with a staff member who can offer guidance and support.
  • In emergency situations, the staff member will try to help you develop a safety plan.

1.Your call might be transferred to a local center.

If you’re calling a national hotline, like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, versus one specific to your city or county, your call will be transferred to a branch close to you. This way, staff members will be familiar  with  local community resources and better assist you based on your location.

2. You’ll be speaking with a staff member who can offer guidance and support.

Staff members–whether employed crisis counselors or volunteers–have all undergone the same basic training. Their job is listen, put you in touch with local services if needed, and  help you calmly problem solve through whatever you’re going through. Phone calls can be short or long, and staff members won’t badger you with questions–they take the lead from you.

3. In emergency situations, the staff member will try to help you develop a safety plan.

In the event that you are experiencing a mental health crisis, a staff member will try to de-escalate the situation, and help you brainstorm a safety plan that you feel comfortable  following through with. This might involve reaching out to a family member or trusted friend, checking into a nearby walk-in crisis clinic, or simply staying on the line until you feel calm and are no longer actively at risk.

If you are actively threatening to hurt yourself, however, staff members can call emergency services. While this is not common, it’s a preventative measure to keep you safe.

a darkened image. the only thing visible is a face, illuminated by the glow a phone
It doesn’t have to be an emergency for you to call.

If you are struggling with depression or any other mental health issue, calling a hotline can be an effective way to connect with nearby resources, and calm down in times of distress. Remember, emergency or not, they’re here to listen.