Crisis and suicide hotlines are the backbone of most civilized nation’s response to suicidal individuals and are often the “first line” of intervention and response. Surprisingly, very little large-scale research has been conducted on the effectiveness of suicide hotlines, whether they actually save people’s lives, and what kind of followup they provide for individuals in crisis.
In one recent research study, Mishara et al. (2007) found that suicide hotline call center quality and the nature of their interventions varied considerably. The researchers also found that call centers tended to do little systematic quality assurance to ensure that volunteers who man the suicide hotlines are conducting interventions according to their initial training.
They also found that “Empathy and respect, [as well as a] supportive approach and good contact and collaborative problem solving were significantly related to positive outcomes” of people who called suicide hotlines.
That’s what the data say, but we’re interested in hearing your personal stories with a suicide or crisis hotline — either as a caller, or as a volunteer who spends time answering the phone at one.