National Suicide Prevention Lifeline more than just an 800 number

Sep 30, 2018

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline serves as a resource for all. It’s not just the phone number. With online resources for loved ones and professionals, and services catering to specific populations, it’s an all-encompassing lifeline when it comes to suicide prevention.

We spoke to the associate director of the lifeline, Shari Sinwelski, about the resources available on “Take Care,” WRVO’s health and wellness show.

The lifeline has been in operation for over 10 years and the crisis hotlines, which make up the lifeline, have been in operation for decades. These centers across the country take calls as they come in, but that’s not the end of the resources available.

“We have our website SuicidePreventionLifeline.org,” Shari said. “That has a lot of valuable resources on there, including a campaign called ‘Be the One To,’ which is a campaign that helps people who may be trying to be a support to someone who they care about who’s at risk for suicide.”

What happens when you call the lifeline

There are best practices at the crisis hotlines, to ensure that everyone meets the same standards for determining when a person may be at risk.

“It can be a topic that is hard for some people to talk about if they haven’t been through that particular training. So we provide best practices for them to talk about the issue in a way that’s very collaborative, that’s very sensitive to the fears that a person might be experiencing,” Shari said.

Each center is independently owned and operated. Some are primarily staffed by volunteers, others by paid staff. All are trained the same way.

Shari says listening is a key part of conversations that happen on the suicide lifeline.

“Most of the calls that come into the line are deescalated,” Shari said.

The other important step is agreeing to action to keep the caller safe, collaboratively, whether that be counseling or more immediate actions. Imminent risk guidelines determine what a counselor must do if a person is in immediate danger.

“On occasion, there are times where a call might be so dangerous that we do need to have some sort of immediate intervention and if a person is unable or unwilling to do that, we may have to call whatever crisis services are available in their community,” Shari said.