I have a confession to make–I am almost incapable of calling a crisis hotline, no matter how bad I feel. I flip open my cell phone, stare at the screen, flip it shut, flip it open again, start to dial the number, stop and flip it shut, on it goes. It can take me up to half an hour to call a crisis hotline. I have no clue why I do this.
And I’m not the only person who does this. According to IMAlive.org, more than 30 percent of people who call a crisis hotline hang up as soon as they hear a voice. Maybe you’re one of these people. Did you know you have the option to chat online about your problem?
According to the web site, Lifeline Crisis Chat is a free service for “Anyone who is depressed, despairing, going through a hard time and just needs to talk, including people who are thinking about suicide. A chat visitor does not have to be thinking about suicide to use crisis chat. Any life issue, whether it be depression, family issues, relationship problems, and financial issues, among others, may be discussed on Lifeline Crisis Chat. Chat specialists are here to listen and support you through whatever difficulties you may be having.” Lifeline Crisis Chat staff and volunteers attend between 30 to 60 hours of training before responding to calls.
According to the web site, Lifeline Crisis Chat does collect non-identifying demographic information such as age, gender (and has the option to click transgender or questioning), issue and zip code. You do not have to use your real name. In the case of imminent danger to self or others (such as you have the gun in your hand and are going to use it or have already overdosed), the specialist may ask for your contact information. It is up to you to decide whether or not to give it. Emergencies requiring that type of intervention are rare; although about half the people using the chat service are suicidal, only one out of every 200 to 300 chats results in help being called.
Lifeline Crisis Chat is available only in the U.S. and its territories, and open from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Hours may expand if funding improves. The site also has a library, including links to information about borderline personality disorder.
IMAlive.org is a virtual crisis center. One hundred percent of the counselors are trained and certified in crisis intervention. All volunteers use the pseudonym Alex. Like Lifeline Crisis Chat, it is free.
IMAlive.org recommends using broadband as wi-fi and smartphones can cause connectivity problems.
“IMAlive provides crisis intervention services via online chat,” reads the site’s description on CrisisChat.org. “Their services are available on weekdays starting at 7pm Eastern Time and running to 10:30 or 12:30 pm, depending on the day.”
IMAlive.org is partnered with The Kristin Brooks Hope Center (founders of 1-800-SUICIDE), To Write Love on Her Arms (a support network for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide), PostSecret (a site that lets you anonymously post your secrets on a homemade post card), and the QPR Institute (which “offers comprehensive suicide prevention training programs, educational and clinical materials for the general public, professionals, and institutions.”).
NewHopeNow.org is sponsored by the Crystal Cathedral. According to the web site, the New Hope Crisis Counseling Center was established in 1968 as the first 24-hour suicide prevention and telephone counseling center sponsored by a church. In 1997, the free chat service was established–making it the first service of its kind in the world. The counselors are trained and supervised by a minister and a clinical psychologist. Although Christian-based, the service is open to anyone.
The chat service is designed to be, according to the web site, “a light that never goes out, an eye that is never closed, an ear that is never shut, a heart that never grows cold.” It is open 24/7.
Why chat should be an option
Chat is not only a good option for people who can’t or won’t call a crisis hotline, but a good way to get help quickly. I’ve had problems with my mental health center’s crisis hotline not calling me back, and this is a guaranteed way to get someone to listen. While at peak times a counselor may be unavailable, keep trying. You deserve the help.