What kind of support do mental health hotlines provide?
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, or if you know someone who is, finding someone to turn to for help can feel challenging. Some people may decide to call a mental health or suicide hotline and ask for help, but what kind of support do mental health hotlines provide?
Lakesha Drummond, LISW-CP, explained how 988 is different than the old suicide hotline number, what support mental health hotlines provide, and what to expect if you call 988.
Who is at risk for suicide?
“The truth is, anyone can be at risk for suicide if they feel hopeless, or as if they have no other options,” said Drummond. “We have this idea that people who are suicidal are always people who struggle with clinical depression, but it isn’t true.”
Other risk factors for suicide include a family history, previous attempts, access to firearms and certain medical conditions like chronic pain, seizures or cancer. You can learn more about risk factors for suicide here on Flourish.
Are there warning signs to watch for that someone is considering suicide?
Loss of interest in activities or hobbies they used to love is one sign Drummond listed that someone may be considering suicide. Another is if they isolate themselves, communicating less often with friends, family or other loved ones.
Someone considering suicide may also begin to give away favorite possessions to others, talk about death more often or seem to experience sudden mood changes.
What is the difference between having suicidal ideation and suicidal intent?
“Essentially, suicidal ideation is having thoughts of suicide but not necessarily feeling the need to act on them,” said Drummond. “Suicidal intent means that you have worked out or are beginning to work out a plan to commit suicide and intend to act on it.”
What can you do if someone is in danger of taking their own life?
If the situation is one of immediate crisis, call the 988 crisis line to speak to someone about getting help immediately. You’ll be connected with a trained mental health counselor whose work is dedicated to helping with mental health crises and possible suicidal situations. The 988 crisis line is free, confidential and available 24/7.
How is 988 different from the old suicide hotline?
“988 is a mental health hotline that has been updated to suit the modern world, and the way people may feel most comfortable speaking up about their feelings,” said Drummond. “You can call, chat online or text with a counselor that can help someone navigate through their crisis. It’s designed to make sure someone in crisis can be linked with a supportive person that will be understanding and work with them to get them the help they need.”
What support do mental health hotlines provide?
“Suicide hotlines offer caring, trained counselors to provide support if you’re feeling hopeless and like you have no one else to turn to,” said Drummond. “I think one major benefit is the text and chat feature.”
People who are experiencing suicidal thoughts may not feel able to explain them out loud or on the phone, and so might hesitate to call a number. Being able to text or chat with a trained counselor not only allows them to take their time in explaining what they’re going through but allows them to have the counselor’s advice in text form to save and look back at later.
Where can you find help for someone who’s contemplating suicide?
Besides calling 988, the following resources are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year:
- Visit Hope.ConnectsYou.org – An anonymous self-check questionnaire for ages 18 and older
- Call 1-833-364-2274 – SC Department of Mental Health’s Mobile Crisis Line
- Text “HOPE4SC” to 741741 – SC Crisis Text Line
- 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 – Veterans Crisis Line
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