This past July, a new suicide prevention hotline rolled out under the name and number of 988. The new initiative has been widely praised for its efforts to reduce self harm among those in moments of despair or a mental health crisis. The resource has provided comfort to those in need, and has ultimately saved lives. But are there similar resources available for those who may just need someone to talk to? Enter Warmlines.
Warmlines, similar to hotlines such as 988, come into play when someone is seeking counsel and may want to talk to an unbiased third party. They’re also helpful for those who don’t have anyone to talk to at all. According to a 2011 study, Warmline callers needed crisis assistance less, and generally felt less isolated after dialing in.
Not only do Warmlines create a sense of support and community, they can also be seen as more affordable alternatives to more traditional methods of mental health treatments. And with cost being such a big barrier to receiving necessary mental and emotional care, Warmlines make care more accessible, especially for Black people and other communities of color. As an essay by Harvard Medical School affiliate McLean estimates, only 25% of Black Americans seek mental health services.
While access to care in communities of color still needs to be addressed, Warmlines do offer an opportunity to help bridge the gap.
“They are important because access to mental health care in this country is so poor, most people don’t have someone to turn to when they have a question to work through or need support,” said Dr. Jessica Gold, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis.
And in cases where someone actually might actually have access to a therapist or counselor, Warmlines can also help fill the void if your appointment is a week from when you find yourself needing someone to talk to, as most are available 24/7. “This allows people to feel validated in their experiences in the moment and not have to wait,” Gold said.
As originally reported by HuffPost, Warmlines can also be seen as preventative care. “Warmlines are so important because they offer another layer of help before a person may need to call 911 or visit their nearest emergency room,” said Jami Shanes, a counselor at LifeStance Health, an outpatient mental health care group that offers services virtually and in person.
And in neighborhoods where the thought of police presence is a real threat, Warmlines cut down interactions with law enforcement who are, more often than not, unnecessarily heightening the stress of the situation.
Warmline staff members are professionally trained to provide services, however, it’s worth noting that not every call may result in you feeling fully content.
“Calling a hotline or warmline is not a guarantee that someone is going to feel better or that their problems have been solved,” Shanes said. “That is why it is also important to have multiple tools in your toolbox of care.”