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Filed Under: Educational, Personal
Follow Up: What To Do When A Crisis Hotline Fails You?

Follow Up: What To Do When A Crisis Hotline Fails You?

By Michelle Lunger

We wrote a blog post last month regarding suicide hotlines and decided to pose the following question on our Instagram-  “If you ever contacted a crisis hotline, did you find it helpful? Why?” We read all of your responses and some people said their experience wasn’t helpful. Because of some of these responses we felt it was important to do a follow up blog to shed some light on that and mention that unfortunately, not everyone will have the same experience with these hotlines. However, we don’t want that to discourage you or anyone from contacting a hotline. Here’s why- Although it may not always be helpful, one conversation could save your (or a family members/friends) life. From our perspective, it doesn’t hurt to call. There could just be one instance where the person on the other end of the line isn’t helpful, but a future call may work out better for you. For us, it has come down to this piece of advice- calling a crisis hotline can be a helpful FIRST step when you don’t know what to do or who to talk to. In light of the responses that did not have great experiences when contacting a hotline, we want to mention some other options you can take. 

I remember when I was in crisis mode and felt suicidal I didn’t know what steps to take. I didn’t even think about contacting a crisis hotline. In retrospect, it could have prevented me from falling deeper into my crisis. I felt like it would be uncomfortable or weird or scary to go up to an emergency desk in the hospital and say I need help while there were people dying and I had no physical signs of distress. You don’t have to have symptoms physically to be ashamed of asking for help. No one told me what to do in a mental health emergency at the time, but now I’m telling you the some steps and options you can take to get the help you need if you don’t feel like contacting a crisis hotline will be of help to you. 


Steps you can take when a crisis hotline fails you:

  1. Figure out whether your suicidal thoughts are passive or active. Do you have a plan? Do you have access to lethal means? There is a difference between actually wanting to die or just wanting to end your pain. For me, I’ve always been scared of death, yet I still have experienced suicidal thoughts. But my suicidal thoughts have been more in relation to the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. If you are actively suicidal or made an attempt call 911 immediately-  especially when you have exhausted all other options or have no other accessible options. They can take you in for a mental health evaluation and figure out your next steps. 


  2. Find a Mental Health Care Professional. This step isn’t the easiest to do if you don’t already have one, but it is important to know that the right fit is out there. A mental health care professional can help talk you through your symptoms and should know the best and proper resources in your area. A therapist, psychiatrist, or doctor are trained and licensed to give you the care you need. If you want to find a therapist check out Psychology Today. I found my therapist through their website and have been seeing her for the past 3 years. Having a therapist was and has been crucial for my mental health recovery.


  3. Similar to addiction support groups, there are also mental health support groups. Some also combine both because they can go hand in hand. There are many types that can specifically fit your needs. Some are peer-led, mentor-based, or even run by a mental health professional like a clinician. I have been a part of several support groups and even group therapy and I find them very helpful because it makes you realize you aren’t alone even though it may feel that way in the moment. You can find local support groups in your area through NAMI, DBSA, MHA or even through doing your own research on the internet. Just make sure they are credible and provide safe support. 


  4. Educate yourself and others. Be aware of potential triggers, warning signs or symptoms. You can read our latest blog post here that goes more in depth about this. You can find mental health educational resources through the websites previously mentioned and on our resources page as well. 


  5. Whether you are or not in crisis, create a safety plan. Figure out local resources and people to contact when needed and create a list for easy referral. 


  6. Create a mental health toolkit. This is your survival guide for going through crises. This can look like keeping up to date with friends and family, coping skills like meditation, journaling or deep breathing and even awareness. It is important to learn what works for you and what doesn’t. This is usually all about trial and error to figure out what works best for you. Everyone has their own “recipe” for mental health wellness. 


In conclusion, there are some really helpful crisis hotlines that have saved lives, but based on your feedback, we also understand there is a limit to what they can do. Realistically they can’t do the work for you. They are your guidance, your comfort, and your reminder that you are going to be ok, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment. We are not trying to discredit any hotline, we are just here to let you know that there are other options in times of crisis if you feel a hotline won’t/doesn’t work for you and that it is not one and done.  

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