Warm Lines: Providing Help Before a Crisis Develops
A warm line is a confidential, free phone service offering mental health support. Unlike a crisis line or hotline, they are not intended for emergency situations.
Warm lines are typically staffed by volunteer or paid peers—people with personal experience with mental health disorders. They use their experience to better understand and support callers, offering conversation, emotional support and information on local mental health services and other community services when needed.
Warm lines can fill in a gap in mental health services – when someone is struggling and needs someone to talk to but is not in crisis and does not need to go to the emergency room. They can help provide supported needed to help prevent a situation from escalating to a crisis.
About 30 states have some form of a warm line for mental health support. For example, a peer run warm line based in San Francisco has answered more than 100,000 calls since it was established in 2014. As a result of a recent increase in state funding, it is now accessible from anywhere in the state.
While there are many warm lines across the country, they are not uniform. They vary in the hours they are available, the staffing (such as paid or volunteer and amount of training), and who can access the line (local area, statewide, across the country).
A study looking at the role of warm lines in the mental health recovery process over a period of three years found that the warm line provided a useful service. Users reported improvements, including a decrease in use of crisis services and increase in community integration, such as recreation activities and social interaction. The researchers concluded that nonclinical services like peer-run warm lines can play in important role in the mental health recovery process.
Warm lines can be especially helpful for people needing help in the evening or overnight when other mental health services may not be available. One study looking at the impacts of warm lines concluded that “although warm lines at any time of day are helpful, keeping warm lines running after 5 p.m. and throughout the night provides support services not typically available after office hours and can assist with loneliness, symptom management, and the process of recovery.”
Finding a Warm Line
A list of warm lines by state is available at warmline.org. The lines vary in hours and geographic regions they are available.
If you or a loved one are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911.
- Stephens, S. It's not a hotline, it's a 'warmline': It gives mental health help before a crisis heats up. Kaiser Health News. Dec. 4, 2019.
- Dalgin RS, Maline S, Driscoll P. Sustaining recovery through the night: impact of a peer-run warm line. Psychiatr Rehabil J. 2011 Summer;35(1):65-8. doi: 10.2975/35.1.2011.65.68.
- Dalgin, RS, Dalgin, MH, Metzger, SJ. A Longitudinal Analysis of the influence of a Peer Run Warm Line Phone Service on Psychiatric Recovery.