Wanted: Crisis Hotline StoriesCrisis 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.

While you’re welcomed to tell your story in a free-form narrative, these questions might also help spur your thoughts on your experiences as a caller to one of these suicide hotlines:

  • Was the volunteer empathetic and compassionate to you?
  • Did they try and help problem solve your immediate crisis?
  • Did they suggest followup care or other services within the community?
  • Did they make a contract with you?
  • Did you ever call back and what was that experience like?

As a volunteer:

  • Did you get appropriate training and re-training at regular intervals on how to respond to callers?
  • Did your supervisors help you deal with burnout or the emotional toll of answering the calls?
  • Was there any program in place to help monitor the quality of your interactions with callers?
  • What was your motivation for volunteering in the first place?

You can share your story below in the comments section, or if you prefer, email it to us at:

     talkback at psychcentral.com

We would like to better understand what the reality of these hotlines are from people who actually use them, and those who give of their time to help others by volunteering for one. We may publish excerpts from these stories in a future blog article on this topic.