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What’s the Difference Between a Crisis Line and a Warmline?

Crisis Line, Crisis Line and a Warmline

You’re struggling and you know you need support, but you don’t know if you should contact a warmline or a crisis line. A lot of people are unsure what makes one different from the other; some incorrectly assume that these are just two names for the same service. While both are free resources that offer phone and sometimes chat or text support, and that may link people to mental health services in their local area, they are not quite the same.

What is a Crisis Line?

By definition, a crisis is a sudden, overwhelming event that can lead a person to feel or be unsafe. These events are short-lived but require urgent response. Crisis lines are set up to deal with situations that could become life-threatening or create long-term damage to a person’s well-being without immediate intervention. The caller’s concern may be more challenging than their friends or family are prepared to handle, or the person may be too afraid to share their struggle with loved ones. Some examples of common reasons a person might call a crisis line include:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Mental illness that is causing the person to become a danger to themselves or others
  • Inability to stop using drugs or alcohol
  • Uncontrollable gambling
  • Loss of a loved one to suicide or other sudden, violent means
  • Situations where it is unclear if hospitalization is needed to keep the person safe

Crisis lines are typically answered by trained crisis counselors. These crisis counselors have been taught: 

  • How to screen callers to determine their level of risk 
  • Ways to de-escalate people who are having violent thoughts
  • How to talk with people who are in psychosis
  • When to call for law enforcement or emergency medical services 

Crisis lines take phone calls, chats, and texts 24 hours per day, every day of the year and may also be able to dispatch mobile crisis counselors to meet with the person face-to-face. 

What is a Warmline?

A warmline, on the other hand, is often not meant to handle such acute scenarios. Warm lines are generally staffed by individuals who have lived experience with mental health. They are trained to provide support for daily concerns that do not require hospitalization or other immediate intervention to keep the person safe. For example, a warmline works well for a person who is feeling sad but not suicidal, or someone who is thinking about therapy but is not at risk for hurting themselves while they make up their mind. 

A caller might reach out because the friends or family members they would normally talk to aren’t available or because they aren’t sure how to share their concern with their loved ones. The peers who answer a warmline often do not have the ability to dispatch anyone to meet face-to-face with a person who is struggling, except by calling for law enforcement to conduct a welfare check. Warmlines may also have a limited set of hours when the phones are answered.

What Happens if I Call the “Wrong” Line?

It is never wrong to reach out for support, and it is better to call the “wrong” line than to suffer alone. Should you reach out to one line when the other is better able to help, you will most likely be given whatever support you can receive before being transferred to the line that can give you the best care

Does it Matter What Crisis Line or Warmline I Call?

While there are crisis lines and warmlines all over the country, most of which will offer assistance to anyone who reaches out, it is often better to utilize a local line. This way, the person who takes your call will be able to suggest local resources that might be helpful in your situation. 

Does West Virginia Have Crisis Lines and Warmlines?

If you call or text 988 from your cell phone, you will be connected to the nearest location of the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. If your cell number does not originate from the area where you are currently located, it may be more helpful to call or text a local number. 

People in West Virginia have two available crisis lines, 844-HELP4WV and 877-435-7304. Both lines offer call, chat, and text options around the clock. Because West Virginia does not currently offer a warmline, you may need to contact a warm line in the nearest state outside of West Virginia. 

If you or a loved one is in crisis or needs mental health support, Highland Hospital is here to help. We offer personalized treatment for children, adolescents, and adults that is grounded in evidence-based approaches. Call us today to learn more. 

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