Suicide hotlines perform an essential service that saves lives on a daily basis. The voice on the other end of the line can be counted on to talk and provide help for as long as anyone feeling suicidal needs. But is it ever ok for the operator to hang up? Not every caller is legitimately seeking help, so how does a professional determine that valuable time is being wasted?

We reached out to several press representatives at suicide hotlines and unsurprisingly no one was willing to go on record. One hotline worker was willing to tell us their exact protocol, as long we kept their identity secret. This what it takes to hang up on a suicide hotline caller.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

+1 (800) 273-82-55

HOURS: 24 hours, 7 days a week

LANGUAGES: English, Spanish


Can a suicide hotline hang up on a caller?. Image 1.



Suicide hotline 

OK, SO THE WAY IT WORKS IS THIS: Someone calls and I greet them with a standardized invitation (e.g., "What's going on tonight?). From there I listen to the caller to get a sense of the situation that has driven them to call.

There are two kinds of calls that merit early termination: prank and lewd. While listening to the caller, if the operator suspects that it may be not-so-legit, the operator has to look for signs to support his/her suspicions (e.g. laughter, inconsistencies in details, moaning, etc). Once the operator feels sure they're on the receiving end of a prank/sex call, he/she is allowed to confront the caller, albeit gently. "Frank, it sounds to me like you're masturbating right now. I'm going to have to end this call."

The operator has to maintain an open and inviting tone at all times, no matter what. And always, always remind the caller that the hotline is here for him/her in the case of an emergency. "If anything comes up later, Frank, remember that we're here 24/7."

The tough call would be if the operator hears masturbating in the background but still suspects the legitimacy of the caller's need for help. I suppose in that case, the operator would have to treat the caller's genitals as they would any means of suicide. "Frank, I hear how... distressed you are. Could you agree to put that away for the duration of our call." But, as with guns and pills, there's really no telling how successful the plea to "separate" will be.


Suicide Action Montréal

+1 (514) 723-40-00

HOURS: 24 hours, 7 days a week

LANGUAGES: English, French



08457 90-90-90 (UK)

116 123 (ROI)

Available 24 hours a day to provide confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts.