What to Do When a Suicide Hotline Doesn’t Help You?

In this blog, we will answer the question, “What To Do When Suicide Helpline Doesn’t Help You?”, and also cover topics like what is a suicide helpline, what is wrong with these suicide helplines, tips to deal with suicidal ideation, and also answer some frequently asked questions. 

What to Do When a Suicide Hotline Doesn’t Help You?

If you are someone who is struggling with suicidal tendencies/ideation and you try to reach out to a suicide hotline but it doesn’t help you, you should try out the following things:

  • Reach out to someone you trust and discuss what you are going through with them
  • Ask for support from your family and loved ones
  • Try to reach out to a psychotherapist who works with suicidal ideation and suicidal tendencies and work through your concerns with them
  • Practice deep breathing and mindfulness techniques to stay present in the moment and calm yourself down.

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

COVID-19 and Suicide Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a set of extraordinary challenges to every country on the planet. Different countries’ capacity, preparedness, and political commitment are reflected in the way they are tackling the pandemic and its impact on their country. 

To tackle this huge public health concern, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of inter-sectoral coordination and collaboration among all important players (nationally and internationally).

We will be discussing what you can do when a suicide hotline does not help you but before we delve into that we need to understand a little more about these suicide hotlines.

What are Suicide Helplines?

Suicide hotlines are call-based or text-based platforms where a person can reach out to when they are experiencing suicidal thoughts and want to take that step of ending their life. 

This is mainly a crisis intervention system in place which are designed to help people in such difficult times of distress, calm them down, talk them out of it, and provide additional support like connecting them to the resources that will extend more support and help to the people for further process. 

Pandemic and Suicide Hotlines

The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have affected everyone’s lives and are a major source of stress for the general public, including highly mobile youth who are confined in homes, the middle-aged, the elderly, vulnerable women and children who are more at risk, law enforcement personnel, and, last but not least, health care workers.

Psychological difficulties such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, psychological anguish, anxiety, and the like may be triggered by long-term exposure to mental trauma. Domestic violence is on the rise, women and children are more vulnerable, and regular support mechanisms are difficult to find. In such a situation, there is a significant unmet need to address society’s mental health issues. During this time, hotlines became increasingly popular.

Purpose of Suicide Hotlines

The purpose of suicide hotlines are listed below:

  • Provide a safe space for a person to talk about their suicidal thoughts
  • Help people to feel better
  • Talking people out of that situation by calming them down
  • Lend an ear to people who feel they are alone and nobody cares
  • Providing additional resources for them to explore like psychotherapy, support groups, psychiatrists for medications, etc. 

Issues with Suicide Hotlines

  • Incorrect numbers

Every time a famous person dies due to suicide, we see a flood of posts on social media sharing suicide helpline numbers, listening platforms, etc. However, most of the numbers being distributed are often wrong, and most helplines are unavailable at night, on weekends, and even during ‘working hours.’

On their websites, most helplines specify that their services are only available during specific hours. For example, Mumbai-based Samaritans claim to be open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., whereas Sumaitri in New Delhi claims to be open from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.

  • Lack of training

Another problem with these suicide hotlines is that the people who are supposed to be providing crisis intervention when someone with suicidal thoughts is reaching out to them often provide weird advice like get your nails done, snapping out of it, order your favourite food, talk to family and friends, etc. 

These suicide hotlines are often volunteer-run and don’t really have trained professionals who are trained specifically in dealing with suicidal thoughts, self-harm, talking a person out of taking that step of ending their lives, and other important skills, etc. that are essential to work on suicide hotlines. 

  • There are limits to what they can do

To be realistic and practical, there is a limit to the kind of offerings these hotlines can offer to a person. Every suicide hotline is different and has its own set of limitations, qualities, etc., but most of these hotlines are understaffed, run by volunteers, undertrained professionals, and overburdened.

  • Paraphrasing and repeating the same things like a parrot

A lot of people who have reached out to these suicide hotlines have shared incidents like the other person on the phone kept saying 

“Oh! I hear you are saying you would like to kill yourself”

“You should stop thinking about death”

“I understand what you are going through!”

All these kinds of paraphrasing and repeating the things said by the person in crisis is not the way to go about when dealing with someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts. 

What to Do When a Suicide Hotline Doesn’t Help You? 

Let us talk about what you can actually do when you are having suicidal thoughts and suicide hotlines are not really helping you. 

  • Reach out to a person you really trust and ask them to stay on the call with you, meet you at your place, pick you up from your home, etc., as when you are with someone you trust, it is easier to share what you are going through and have them in your corner which ensures you won’t act on your thoughts and stay safe.
  • Start taking deep breaths and other breathing exercises.
  • Practice mindfulness and stay in the moment 
  • Start making a list of reasons you have stayed alive for all these years and whatever you are grateful for in your life
  • Try to watch some comedy show or standup clips to make you laugh
  • You can go to a public space like a coffee shop, grocery store, etc., where you are less likely to hurt yourself
  • Talk to your friends and family about what you are going through
  • Reach out to your therapist and work through your issues in therapy

The above-mentioned tips are simple and common coping skills that can help you deescalate the situation and then work on the issues in a more constructive manner after the incident. 

What can Suicide Hotlines do to help?

  • Train their volunteers properly and educate them about suicide and crisis interventions thoroughly
  • Hire people who are working in the mental health space because they have the right skills
  • Check and circulate their numbers and services through their own social media accounts
  • Double-check the resources before sharing them with the callers
  • Teach their teams about how to effectively use paraphrasing and reflective listening rather than simply saying the same things which might be frustrating and triggering for the callers. 
  • Keeping an in-house therapist to help the people working at the suicide hotline keep their mental health in check
  • Regular mental evaluations and check-ins for the employees because only those who are in a good head space can respond to distress calls in an effective manner. 

What does the research say about suicide hotlines?

Hoffberg, Yoder, and Brenner conducted a systematic review of the effectiveness of crisis line services and found out that there is a lot of evidence that clearly shows that there is a lack of effectiveness in these crisis lines and we need to focus on strategies to assess better outcomes by engaging it in a behavioral health module and better rate of prevention of suicide. 

There was another study conducted to study the effectiveness of these suicide hotlines and it was found that these telephonic and chat-based crisis lines have helped to avoid around 30% of projected suicidal attempts. 

Mishara and colleagues conducted a study to understand the reliability of the independent operated bu using assessment tools and analysis of the calls to the Hopeline network in the US during the time period of August 2003 – May 2004. They analyzed the crisis calls by the evaluations of silent monitors observing these calls to understand how the responder is handling these calls and rated them accordingly. 

For quiet monitor observations of helpers, reliability assessments were conducted, and interrater agreement was found to be rather high throughout. According to the judgments of the silent observers, there was an overall favorable mean effect (p 0.001), but several variables did not change significantly from the beginning to the end of the conversation.

Caller outcomes were found to be influenced by responder methods, with a helpful approach and good contact being linked to positive mood/state changes (p 0.001). 

Furthermore, a supportive, collaborative approach with good contact, empathy, and respect were all associated with higher CCORS scores and fewer hang-ups (all p 0.001), and a supportive, collaborative approach with good contact, empathy, and respect were all associated with higher CCORS scores and fewer hang-ups (all p 0.001).

The authors also found that 50.5 percent of callers were not asked about suicidal ideation, and responders failed to meet minimum acceptability standards in 15.6 percent of calls, including a lack of empathy, respect, poor initial contact, and, shockingly, in four cases, the caller was told to kill himself. When the assistance failed to do so with callers in danger in two situations, the research team began an emergency rescue strategy.


We understood what are suicide hotlines, the purpose of these suicide hotlines, and how to help yourself when a suicide hotline does not help you, and we also explored what research has to say about the effectiveness of these suicide hotlines. Even though a lot many times, they are not able to provide the kind of interventions important, there are a few great suicide hotlines 

Frequently Asked Questions: What to Do When a Suicide Hotline Doesn’t Help You?

How effective are hotlines?

There are various hotlines these days and it is difficult to say how effective they are due to a lack of proper study on their efficacy. A study has found that suicide hotlines have helped the caller’s suicidal thoughts in the call and stayed lessened for several weeks after the call. Another study has concluded that most of the hotlines are not that effective and only a few are doing great work. 

What do I do if I have trouble connecting when I call?

They work tirelessly to ensure that everyone has access to a crisis centre as soon as possible. If you phone the toll-free number and are unable to contact a crisis worker, please use the Contact Us form to let them know..

Will the Lifeline number appear on the phone bill?

It is entirely dependent on the phone service provider. Please inquire with your phone company about how toll-free numbers will appear on your bill.

How do you determine which area each National Suicide Prevention Lifeline crisis center serves?

Each crisis centre that participates in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides us with information on their capabilities in terms of phone lines, staffing, and geographic coverage areas, which aids in the development of the routing plan. Crisis centres are not required to address areas in which they do not believe they are capable. Many provide services in their immediate areas as well as statewide or nationally, while others may serve local counties or act as a backup for a nearby crisis centre.


Lifeline Chat program should be used by whom?

The chat can be used by anyone who is depressed, going through a difficult time, needs to talk, or is contemplating suicide. The chat counselors are available to listen and help you during any difficult moments you may be experiencing.

What do crisis hotlines do?

Crisis hotlines are also referred to as suicide hotlines and help in providing a free service where a person can reach out to these hotlines to get support and interventions during a time or crisis like when they are having suicidal thoughts, etc. 



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