*The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/
Calling the suicide hotline is an unfortunate, but necessary step. Nobody wants to be in that place.
But if someone is feeling that way, going to a friend or family member can be especially daunting. If they are going to turn to help, many would prefer keeping the entire situation under wraps.
And there's a phone number to call for that. In fact, there are many. Of course, the national hotline is well known. But several local versions of the suicide hotline abound as well.
Some Redditors gathered to share their experiences with such a service. For some, it was life-saving. Others were baffled by how inept it was, especially considering the seriousness of that service in particular.
If there was ever a Yelp page for the hotline, this Reddit thread was it.
The Poster Child
"I called the VA suicide hotline once. It rang once or twice and a woman picked up. We talked for at least 3 hours, she was amazing. She really actually cared, asked questions, sympathized with me, she saved my life."
"I got an emergency appointment with a VA therapist that next day. At least in my case, it worked the exact way it should."
"I've called once before when I was really upset about a friend situation I think and just some hard-to-swallow circumstances in my life. I talked to a really nice woman who sounded like she was in her 30s-40s and she listened to me as I cried and hyperventilated a little."
"I explained my situation, she empathized with me, and eventually I think she asked what I like to do for fun or to feel better and so we decided I'd watch a comedy special that night after I took a shower and just focus on me for a couple hours before I went to bed."
"At the very end of the call she made sure I didn't want to actively hurt myself or anything and I felt a lot better. I wish I remembered her name but she helped me a lot."
All About Tone
"The first time I called, I still remember to this day. I was in between therapist appointments, and I was struggling really bad. I called and got connected to some guy, and he asked me what he could help me with. I guess I didn't think that far ahead, and after about 10 seconds I just kind of stuttered out an 'I don't know.'"
"And god it must've just been the way he said it, but he just said, 'What's goin on man?' like an old pal that was ready to help. I broke down and told him everything. He talked to me like I was an equal, something I really needed at that time."
"Once I felt better, and like I could get through my day, I thanked him for his time, and the service he was providing. He had a few questions in there that I knew he had to ask. Was I planning anything, was I in danger, etc. But he sprinkled them throughout."
"We talked for about 25 minutes. A few days later I made a small donation to the hotline. They helped me, and I want them to be there to help others."
A More Clinical Description, From a Worker
"When someone calls who is suicidal, the first thing that's done is assessing safety to determine if they are in danger at the moment or in the near future."
"95% of suicide callers are not in danger when they call. In those cases they will gather information, empathize, and help you organize feelings that may be overwhelming you."
"After that you'll start moving towards 'solutions.' A good hotline will not give advice or solutions. Instead, they will talk through solutions that you come up with. It's better to empower people to execute their own solutions than to give outside advice."
"Ultimately though, the conversation is guided by you. If you just want to vent about suicidal feelings, you can. If you're feeling overwhelmed in a moment, you can just call and talk."
"If you have other questions, feel free to ask."
Strengthened by its Anonymity
"Well....For the first minute as you sit crying in the dark, you listen to some pretty dope relaxing elevator music."
"Then they connect you to someone. You awkwardly try to stumble through your problem as they listen carefully. They give you some advice, the conversation goes back and forth, and then you go on your way."
"I always thought it would be some life changing event when I called. Even though I logically knew nothing would happen, the back of my mind painted it as though time would stop. As though the police would show up 30 second after I called. As though everybody would know me as 'The one suicidal dude.' As if I'd would be going through therapy and taking medication for years after the event."
"That's probably what stopped me from calling for so long."
"Anyways, I talked through my problems, hung up, and then went on with life. Even so, it felt great to get so much off my chest, and to know that one person out there knew my struggle. It all kinda got better from there, and all it took was talking. Kinda cliché but true."
"There's more specialized lines that are better if you have a more specific issue or that target a specific group, otherwise NSPH is a good a choice as any."
Hit or Miss
"Well on one side you have those on the hotline that genuinely want to help people, and they will listen and suggest things as the conversation develops..."
Only as Good as the Employee on the Line
"I had a bad experience with them. I was fortunate enough that a friend called me right after and was astute enough to hear in my voice that I needed someone to talk to."
"Mainly, the person told me a story similar to mine where everyone pushed through it and ended up ok. When I said I was still fearful of my future and didn't know whether I really wanted to face it, she was upset. She actually said, 'didn't you hear the story I just told you?'"
"I told her that I thought I got as much 'comfort' as I could stand from her at the moment and hung up."
"Like I said, my friend called right after just to visit. Though my irritation at her tone was enough to break my despair a little."
An Unexpected Concrete Impact
"I called while I was at work a couple months ago. I was cutting a lot and thought I cut really deep. I was talking with them for about 15-20 minutes when an ambulance and the cops showed up." -- Princevaliant377
"I'm shocked you weren't involuntarily commited. I was several years ago and although it was....one of the worst experiences of my life (you basically become the state's property), it also changed my life for the better." -- synyaks
"Think about the money we'd save not dispatching police immediately to things like this." -- Sibraxlis
Sometimes Just Listening Goes So Far
"I called once a couple of years ago. In Australia it's called Lifeline (131114 btw). I was very drunk, had a massive knife and my husband was away at work."
"From what I remember, the woman on the other end of the line listened and asked about my situation. I can't remember exactly what she said but I know she stayed very calm and I knew I had her undivided attention. I knew that she cared at that moment and she talked me down."
"I guess because I called, that was what I really wanted. We were on the phone for maybe 15/20 minutes. I wish I could thank her in person."