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Mental Health Warmlines vs. Crisis Hotlines (A Trained Listener in Times of Non-Emergency Distress)

Last Updated on May 13, 2019 by Inspire Malibu

Bouts of mental pain and sorrow are a common part of even the healthiest person’s life. These situations are often brought on by external factors – personal, professional or family worries – and while they might not be dire emergencies, having the opportunity to talk to a trained listener can help people sort out their thoughts and deescalate feelings of anguish.

This is where “Warmlines,” the slightly younger sibling and alternative to crisis hotlines, come into play.

Warmline vs Crisis Hotline For Mental Heal and Recovery Help

A Warmline is a phone number people can call to get support and learn about available mental health and recovery resources relevant to them or their loved ones.

“They suggest soft, fuzzy images, but do not be deceived: warmlines are proving a powerful approach to reducing hospitalization. In this age of social isolation, the phone is proving itself a lifeline for people with mental illness who are either too afraid or too alone to connect with family or friends,” writes National Empowerment Center contributor Dr. Daniel Fisher, Ph.D.

As emergency hotlines are increasingly overwhelmed with non-emergency calls, warm-lines are becoming more and more common.

A full list of warmline phone numbers across the country can be found at:

Find Warmlines By State

Suicide Prevention and Crisis Hotlines

The idea for hotlines got its start in England in 1953 and made its way to the United States in 1958, founded in Los Angeles.

Today, the most well-known crisis hotline is The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which operates 24 hours a day, every day and can be reached at 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-784-2433.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website can be found at

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), around 1 in 6 adults in the U.S. (nearly 45 million in 2016) live with a mental illness. Depression and anxiety disorders are among the most common conditions.

Though there’s been amazing advances made with medicated assisted treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), there is still sometimes a negative stigma associated with mental illness.

What To Do During a Mental Health Crisis

No one is immune from dealing with an unexpected mental health crisis. The National Alliance on Mental Health suggests the following tips in the event an individual, their friend or loved one is experiencing a desperate situation:

  • Evaluate the situation
  • Reach out to others
  • Talk with your doctor
  • Make sure to practice self-care

In lieu of crisis hotlines, volunteers operating warmlines are less rigid and are generally run by people in recovery from issues similar to the callers. In this way, warmline volunteers understand what callers are going through and are able to identify with the challenging feelings everyone has from time to time.

It’s unlikely that they will call police or emergency services unless the person calling seems as if they might harm themselves or others. The goal of warmlines is to provide a compassionate listener, as well as access to useful resources if the caller wants the information.

Daisy Matthias shared her own struggles and recovery from depression with the San Francisco gate and why she’s a warmline volunteer.

“I want to share with people that you can get better too,” she told the Gate. “When you pick up the phone and call us, you’re going to be talking to a person, not a script. With everything that we’ve been through, there are just some things that are friends and families can’t understand. We’re here to empower callers.”


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