By Amy Brustuen, Southwest Initiative Foundation
NOTE: For this article, all three locally staffed crisis lines in southwest Minnesota were contacted as well as the call center for 988 Lifeline that receives calls from our region. Two call centers and 988 Lifeline participated in interviews to discuss what happens when a person calls, texts or chats. Their information is combined below.
What is a crisis line?
In southwest Minnesota there are staff trained to answer local crisis lines at Woodland Centers, Western Mental Health and Southwestern Mental Health. These lines will triage callers for the right level of service, anywhere from a quick phone call to a transfer to a warmline to sending out mobile crisis staff. There is also a 988 Lifeline that spans all of the United States with call centers scattered throughout, including four in Minnesota (two for texting). When people dial or text 988 on their phones, it goes to the call center closest to the region their phone number is from, not where they are located at the time.
Who calls a crisis hotline?
Sometimes people call a crisis line when they are concerned about others like their children, parents or friends. Sometimes it’s people who are in unsafe situations due to their own mental health or something going on around them. Sometimes it’s people who are looking for simple information needed to help them get through the day. Often people are struggling to cope in some way, but it’s the caller who decides what that means to them.
What does a typical call look like?
Some examples of calls include a person who is having an anxiety attack, someone who woke frightened from a nightmare, a caregiver looking for support to get through their day, someone who has questions that are important for their day-to-day functioning or people who are simply overwhelmed. Sometimes youth call, or more often will use the text line. There is no minimum age to call, but if it’s one of the centers that offers mobile crisis services after the phone call, a parent would need to consent for a worker to be dispatched.
Will the police show up at my house?
It is extremely rare that law enforcement will know that you called and even more rare that they would respond; the goal is to come alongside people to give them what they need to keep them safe and at home. When someone who is thinking about suicide calls a crisis line, the fact that they called typically means they want to talk about other options. If this happens, the hotline will talk with the person about a safety plan and help make a safety plan. There is a new law (“Travis’s Law”) that adds some element of consent for emergency services to be sent out. This is still new and not yet interpreted the same across all counties. At any rate, this is done as a last option when an attempt is in process, or the person is steadfast in their intention to hurt themselves or someone else.
Is my situation “bad enough” to warrant calling someone?
The overwhelming response among all call centers is that it’s the caller who decides if the hotline is needed. According to one call center interviewed, it’s time to call when “it’s too much for today.” There is no minimum threshold for when things warrant the call center. They are not an emergency services line, so if emergency response services are needed it is best to call 911.
Do I need to give my name?
They will ask you for your name and location, but it is up to you if you give it or what you wish to be called. They do not “trace” calls. They ask you for the location so that they can refer you to local resources.
What if I don’t know what to talk about?
One person interviewed said that many calls start with something like “I don’t know if this is a crisis or if I called the right place, but …” The staff who answer the phone are trained to facilitate these conversations. The staff will also have some standard questions that they ask every caller because they are working to define what kind of support you need and what is needed to keep you safe.
Do I need to pay for this?
Some of the centers operate with state and local government dollars. The 988 line is paid for using federal and state funds as well funds from the surcharges that we all pay for on our phone lines. We are all paying for these lines, and these services are for all of us. If you call a center that has mobile crisis and they dispatch a clinician, they may ask for your insurance information so that they can bill, but it is unlikely that they will bill you for any remaining portions.
Where to call
- 988 Lifeline: Text/call/chat the numbers 988 on your phone.
- Woodland Centers Crisis Center: 800-432-8781
(Big Stone, Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Meeker, Renville and Swift counties)
- Southwestern Mental Health: 800-642-1525
(Cottonwood, Jackson, Nobles, Pipestone, and Rock counties)
- Western Mental Health: 800-658-2429
(Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Redwood and Yellow Medicine counties)
- McLeod County Mental Health Crisis Response: 888-302-2898
Warm Line Numbers
- Wellness in the Woods (5 p.m. to 9 a.m.): 844-739-6369
- Mental Health Minnesota: 651-288-0400 or text 85511
This information is intended to be general summary information for public use and doesn’t replace professional mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment.