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Suicide Help Chat: A Viable Option to Calling a Crisis Line?

Suicide help chats are available across the United States, and, indeed, around the world. People often utilize online suicide chats rather than calling crisis hotline phone numbers, but is suicide chat help really a viable option to actually calling a crisis line?

What is a Live Suicide Chat?

Live suicide chats are online chats, in real-time, where a person in crisis can interact with a trained responder via text. These chats are just like the ones that people have over Facebook or Skype but it's done over software specific to the suicide prevention organization. Organizations like the National Suicide Prevention

Lifeline (Lifeline), the Veterans Crisis Line and The Trevor Project all offer online suicide help chats.hotline-suicide-vs-chat-healthyplace

The Pros and Cons of Online Suicide Help Chats

Any option that spurs a person in crisis to reach out is certainly beneficial but there are pros and cons specific to online suicide help chats.

The pros of suicide online chats include:

  • A new way for people to access support that may make an individual in crisis feel more comfortable than speaking over the phone.
  • A way to access help that doesn't cost phone time or money.
  • A way of accessing suicide prevention help that will possibly make a person feel more secure in their anonymity.

 

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The cons of suicide online chats do exist, however. Some of the cons of live suicide chats include:

• The responder will not be able to send help to the location of the person in crisis without the person's permission. While this fact may make the person in crisis feel better, temporarily, that help is sometimes needed to save a life.

  • The person in crisis may not be writing to a local responder and so help may be more general instead of referral to a local support resource.
  • It is more difficult to tell how the person in crisis is doing when you cannot hear his or her voice.
  • The chat can be interrupted due to Internet connection issues.
  • It may be very difficult for a person to type out everything they are feeling or the details of his or her situation in a timely manner.
  • Language barriers may be more pronounced in a typed scenario.
  • There may be less of a connection between the person in crisis and the responder when technology is put in the middle.

Is Online Suicide Chat Help a Viable Option to Calling a Crisis Hotline?

In the end, any manner of accessing suicide help is better than not reaching out at all and if a person feels he or she cannot talk to someone, but can type to them, then it's a win. And if a person engages in a suicide help chat with an organization like Lifeline, the responder can be well-trained and local, just as it would be with a phone call.

However, it may be more beneficial to call a helpline than to engage in a suicide help chat simply due to the possible interpersonal connection and amount of information that can be relayed, both verbally and through tone of voice.
That being said, online suicide chats can still be an option for some people and shouldn't be overlooked as a possible source of help and support.

next: How to Become a Suicide Hotline Volunteer
~ all suicide articles

Last Updated: 15 September 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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