Let’s discuss: callers and volunteers experiences with a variety of hotlines

Hey everyone,

So today’s topic. Hotlines. Those numbers you can call to vent your feelings on issues you’re having, which for those of us with severe mental illness can be quite deep and painful things that are so hard to say out loud to anyone and so reaching out anonymously is easer. Also just getting a compassionate ear can mean so much. I don’t know how long hotlines have been around, that would be interesting to find out. But I have heard a lot of pros and cons to them, basically it comes down to who you get when you call and if you do get someone who doesn’t click whether you have the emotional strength to try again. Also I feel the level of training/ supervision of volunteers makes a big difference.

I remember calling the Samaritans once whil at home when going to community college. It was at night and I couldn’t sleep. I talked to this very nice guy for twenty minutes and it was extremely helpful. I tried volunteering their once. Their policy of not stepping in and demanding a person get help for being suicidal was something I could not deal with at the time. However after my own experiences of having been suicidal and the kind of feedback one needs in order to have a conversation and trust the other person, I can totally one hundred percent see their point. I wish I could volunteer for Samaritans but there aren’t any branches in Chicago. Which is too bad because there are many in other states plus other countries as it was started in the UK.

I then went on to do some hotline work at my internships in college. I was on a helpline at a women’s center and took calls about domestic violence, depression, and people just needing to vent. It was so interesting to hear these people’s stories and follow them as they would call back several times during the course of my internship. Over time I got good at knowing what each person needed to feel safe and talk.

Lastly I worked at a gay men’s domestic violence hotline. Which honestly there weren’t many calls to. I don’t know why that was. But I did get a few calls. Most important at that internship was the forty hour training on DV which included crisis intervention, multicultural issues, disability, substance abuse trauma ETC. I got a lot out of that.

I felt quite proud of myself for my work on hotlines. One big advantage is you don’t have to have siht at all to do this, and as long as the equiptment, phone system ETC is accessible it shouldn’t be a problem like blindness would present itself to those running volunteer programs so hopefully there isn’t that obstacle. There wasn’t at my internships.

Unfortunately there aren’t many hotlines at all in Chicago. The only one is the national run away hotline. I don’t know much about it and would worry about physically going to a part of Chicago that I’m not sure is safe.

However there are some online support options I’m discovering such as seven cups of tea, an online active listening service. I don’t know much about it but am exploring it. I plan to find something to get me back into hotline work again.

So as I said would love to get your experiences either as volunteers or callers to various hotlines. Below will be a list of them for reference.

Would love discussion and comments.



National runaway safe line in Chicago



Breathing space scotland


Child line


Hotlines in other countries? Would love to hear about them. Any and all comments/ information are accepted. Let’s start a great discussion on a very important issue!


9 thoughts on “Let’s discuss: callers and volunteers experiences with a variety of hotlines

  1. I volunteer at a peer run Warm Line. (Yes, it is was you call a “hotline.”) We get many calls and are trained extensively. We are also required go to four trainings a year to continue to be a volunteer there. I don’t mind. I love volunteering there.

    • Hey. That sounds wonderful. Where are you located? What’s the warmline called so I can recommend it. Also to clarify I believe a warmline is run by peer specialists and is not for 24 hours, while a hotline is 24 hours? Is that right. Have never understood the difference. As I said I wish there were more places in the area to volunteer at.

      • Some peer run Warm Lines are 24 hours however the one I volunteer at is not 24 hours. Also, not everyone that volunteers at my particular Warm Line is a “peer specialist,” though we all have lived experience with a mental illness. To be considered a peer specialist in the State of Washington you have to take a 40 hour training and pass an examination and have lived experience. I volunteer at the Washington Warm line and we are able to take call from both in state and out of state. (Side Note: Not all Warm Lines take calls from out of state.) We are open Wednesday – Sunday from 5pm to 9pm Pacific Time. The number is 1-877-500-9276

  2. Tanks Gertie! This is an awesome detailed description of your warmline. I’m glad that there is in depth training to become a peer specialist that might be something I’d be interested in doing. I think now that you mention it I met a peer specialist at a drop in center once. She ran a group and by my particpation in the group said I’d make a good peer specialist.
    Interesting that y yours takes calls out of state. I wonder if some of the samaritans hotlines do as well even though there are none located in IL? That way people could still use the service. anyone working with samaritans feel free to chime in.
    also thanks for giving the number and info on that. I hope this turns into a great discussions about the differenthelpline resources out there and people can jump in and contribute their perspectives.

  3. Yeah I hope it does too. There are a lot of things not known about different hotlines and so some people are afraid to call. Like people think all suicide hotlines the polece will be contacted if you say you have a plan and things. But I know from the Samaritans that this isn’t the case at all. They’re very pro people making their own decission about their lives including when to die which before scared me, but now after being suicidal myself I really think it’s a good policy and allows people in that space to call without fear of being overwhelmed by the police. Has anyone else worked on different lines? Would love to hear different experiences with the lines I taged, child abuse, domestic violence ETC. Or experiences from those who called.

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