- Should I Call a Mental Health Helpline?
- What Questions Should I Ask?
- What Is Mental Health?
- Free Crisis Hotline Numbers
Calling Mental Health HelplinesPeople reach out to mental crisis hotlines for all sorts of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, you are not alone. Many people experience similar struggles, and there are resources available to help. During a crisis, you might feel like things will never change. Contacting a mental health crisis hotline is a good way to begin reaching out for much-needed support. But if you are afraid that you or someone you know might hurt themselves or someone else, call 911 immediately.
Mental health problems disrupt the way you think, feel, and act. They can begin at any age, affecting your mood or interactions with others. Many mental health disorders occur alongside other issues, particularly substance abuse and addiction. Without treatment, some conditions become worse over time. If you think you might have a mental health condition, calling a hotline number could be your first step toward finding effective treatment.
Should I Call a Mental Health Helpline?
It is normal to feel nervous before calling someone you don’t know on a mental help hotline, but the people staff at mental health hotlines have extensive experience talking to people just like you. Everything you say to them is private and confidential—you don’t even have to give them your name if you don’t want to.
Most mental health hotlines are free to call, so they are a good place to start if you have never sought treatment from a psychiatrist or therapist before. You can learn more about mental health issues and the types of treatment available, plus what to expect when you visit a mental health doctor or counselor for the first time. Many hotlines can help connect you to treatment facilities and other resources in your area.
It can be helpful to talk about your experience with someone who knows what you are going through.
Watching someone you love struggle with bipolar disorder, PTSD, or other mental health condition can be challenging, frightening, and frustrating. That’s why mental crisis hotlines are also available to friends and family members of those struggling with mental health issues. It can be helpful to talk about your experience with someone who knows what you are going through. Or, if you are concerned that someone you know may need treatment, a mental health hotline can provide more information about symptoms and what steps to take in order to help your loved one.
People call mental health hotlines for all sorts of reasons, including to:
- Learn about the symptoms of various mental health disorders.
- Talk to someone who understands.
- Get anonymous and confidential help.
- Discuss a personal problem.
- Find a therapist or psychiatrist.
- Find a mental health treatment center.
- Learn more about treatment options.
- Ask questions about what’s healthy and what’s not.
- Learn tips for talking to a friend or loved one who is experiencing mental health challenges.
- Ask questions about a related substance use disorder.
- Find a sympathetic ear.
What Questions Should I Ask?
- How do I know if I have a mental health disorder?
- What do I do if I’m having a panic attack, a manic episode, or other crisis?
- Can mental health disorders be treated?
- Do I need medication?
- What are the symptoms of mental health disorders?
- What if I have multiple mental health issues?
- What if I’m addicted to drugs or alcohol?
- Do I need to go to a special treatment program?
- How much does mental health treatment cost, and will my insurance cover it?
- Will I ever feel normal?
- What are the next steps I should take?
If you are having a tough time understanding what is going on with a friend or family member, a hotline can help you learn more about mental health disorders and their treatment. Talking to a loved one about mental health can be difficult, but you can prepare for that conversation by calling a mental health hotline and asking questions first.
Questions you can ask a mental health hotline include:
- What should I do if I think my friend or family member needs help?
- What resources are available to me and how can they help?
- Should I talk to the person about my concerns?
- What should I say to someone I love who is displaying symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other condition?
- What are the symptoms of common mental health disorders?
- How can I help someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol?
- How can I help someone with a behavioral addiction, such as gambling, porn, or shopping?
- What are the treatment options for my loved one?
- What can I do to be supportive while they are in treatment?
What Is Mental Health?
Your mental health is your emotional well-being. It encompasses the way you feel, think, and react to situations in your daily life. Mental health affects your mood, the way you handle stress, relate to others, and make decisions.1 Positive mental health allows you to reach your full potential and live a healthy life. But if you feel depressed, are overwhelmed by anxiety or stress, relate to others inappropriately, or have a history of trauma or abuse that triggers flashbacks or other symptoms, then your mental health is likely preventing you from leading the life you truly want.1
Positive mental health allows you to reach your full potential and live a healthy life.
Mental health disorders have unique symptoms doctors look for when making a diagnosis. However, there are some general signs that indicate that some type of mental health issue is present, and the person experiencing them should seek a more thorough evaluation. These signs include:2
- Personality changes.
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns.
- Problems coping with normal stress or daily activities.
- Strange or grandiose ideas.
- Excessive anxiety.
- Prolonged depression or apathy.
- Thinking or talking about suicide.
- Substance abuse.
- Extreme mood swings.
- Excessive anger, hostility, or violent behaviors.
Many people with mental health disorders also struggle with substance abuse and addiction. In fact, people with mental health problems are about twice as likely as the general population to have a substance abuse problem.3 The reverse is also true: Compared to the general population, people who abuse drugs and alcohol are about twice as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.3
Common Types of Mental Health Disorders
Depression: Depression is much more than just feeling sad; it is a disorder of the brain. Depression affects more than 19 million people in the U.S. and is becoming increasingly common all around the world.4 Depression can happen to anyone, at any age, though it often begins in the teenage years, and is more common in women than men.4 Several factors can combine to cause depression, including genetics, biology, and environment.4 Symptoms of depression include:4
- Prolonged feeling of sadness or emptiness.
- Losing interest in favorite activities.
- Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much.
- Feeling tired all the time.
- Overeating, or not wanting to eat at all.
- Feeling hopeless.
- Feeling irritable, anxious, or guilty.
- Chronic aches or pains, like headaches or stomach aches.
- Thinking about death.
- Thinking about suicide.
Depression is treatable, and many patients are able to lead emotionally healthy lives. Depression is typically treated with a combination of medications (antidepressants) and psychotherapy (sometimes called “talk therapy”).
Depression is treatable, and many patients are able to lead emotionally healthy lives.
Anxiety: Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the U.S., affecting more than 40 million adults.5 Anxiety is normal when it has a cause, such as nervousness before public speaking. When anxiety has no specific cause and continues for months, it is considered an anxiety disorder. Women are far more likely than men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.6 Other risk factors include: 6
- Shyness in childhood.
- Having a lower income.
- Being divorced or widowed.
- Exposure to stress or trauma in childhood.
- Experiencing major stress or trauma in adulthood.
- A family history of anxiety.
- Parents with mental disorders.
There are several different types of anxiety disorders, each with distinguishing symptoms. For example, social anxiety includes intense worry about social situations and a fear of public places, while panic disorder involves repeated panic attacks. People with generalized anxiety disorder display daily symptoms for months and experience chronic, excessive worry. Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:6
- Feeling wound-up or on edge.
- Being easily tired.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Difficulty controlling worry.
- Problems falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Muscle tension.
Anxiety disorders can be treated with a combination of medicine and talk therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that has been successful in treating anxiety.6
Bipolar Disorder: People with Type 1 bipolar disorder, sometimes referred to as manic-depressive disorder, experience dramatic mood swings from periods of mania to periods of depression. A manic episode is a period of feeling intensely energized, irritable, and impulsive, while a depressive episode is a period of intense sadness or hopelessness, often accompanied by fatigue. Symptoms of both periods are severe enough to cause major interferences with daily life.7
Episodes of mania and depression may continue throughout life, but with treatment they will be less frequent and less severe.
A known risk factor for developing bipolar disorder is having family history of bipolar disorder.7 Genetics and brain structure also have shown to be contributing factors.7 Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, but it is manageable. Episodes of mania and depression may continue throughout life, but with treatment they will be less frequent and less severe. Treatment typically includes a combination of medications (mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants) and therapy.7
Obsessive-Compulsion Disorder (OCD): OCD is characterized by obsessions, which are chronic, uncontrollable thoughts, and compulsions, which are behaviors the person feels the urge to repeat again and again.8 Researchers don’t know what causes OCD, but there is some evidence that it runs in families. People with a history of childhood trauma are also at increased risk.8
People with OCD can have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions, or both. Symptoms significantly impact life and interfere with work, school, and relationships. Symptoms of OCD can include:8
- Obsessions such as fear of germs; unwanted or taboo thoughts about sex, religion, and violence; aggressive thoughts; and keeping things symmetrical or in order.
- Compulsions such as excessive cleaning or handwashing, ordering and arranging things, repeatedly checking on things, and compulsive counting.
OCD is treated with medication, talk therapy, or a combination of both. Most people with OCD respond with treatment, but some continue to experience symptoms. OCD often co-exists with other mental health disorders, like anxiety and eating disorders.8Eating Disorders: Eating disorders are serious behavioral health problems that can be dangerous and even fatal. Some people believe that eating disorders are merely a lifestyle choice, but the truth is that eating disorders are significant mental health conditions that require medical treatment. While there are different types of eating disorders, they all involve obsessions about food and body image. Risk factors for eating disorders include being female, being a teenager, having an anxiety disorder, and having a substance abuse problem.9 Depending on the severity of the eating disorder, treatment can include hospitalization, medication, or talk therapy.
Signs of the three most common eating disorders include the following:9
- Anorexia—characterized by extreme thinness and dieting, intense fear of gaining weight, distorted body image, and an intense pursuit of thinness.
- Bulimia—characterized by binge eating (periods of eating large amounts of food in a short time) followed by purge behavior (self-induced vomiting, diuretic and/or laxative abuse, excessive exercise) in association with distorted body image, and an intense fear of gaining weight.
- Binge Eating Disorder—characterized by eating abnormally large amounts of food in short periods of time, feeling out of control during a binge, scheduled binge episodes, intense guilt and shame around binges, and chronic on-and-off dieting.
Free Crisis Hotline Numbers
If you think you or someone you love may be struggling with a mental health disorder, call one of these numbers to learn more about various mental health conditions and connect with valuable resources near you.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
If mental health difficulties are leading you to consider suicide or think about death often, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s national network of local crisis centers. This 24-hour hotline is available to anyone in crisis and provides free and confidential emotional support and crisis intervention.
- Crisis Text Line: Text “home” to 741741
This unique hotline is available via text message to anyone experiencing mental health difficulties or an emotional crisis. Highly trained counselors offer support and guidance to calm you down and make sure you are safe.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
If you’re ready to seek professional treatment for your mental health condition, SAMHSA’s helpline and web-based behavioral health treatment services locator can help you find information about treatment providers, therapists counselors, support groups, and community resources in your area.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
The NAMI Helpline is available Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST to answer your general questions about mental health issues and treatment options. You can get information on mental health services in your area and learn how to help a loved one find treatment.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.) What is mental health?
- Mayo Clinic. (2016). Adult health.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010). Comorbidity: Addiction and other mental illness.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Depression.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.) Any Anxiety Disorder Among Adults.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Anxiety disorders.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Bipolar disorder.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Eating disorders.