Crisis Hotlines Essay

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Crisis hotlines are dedicated telephone numbers available for persons who need immediate assistance. Hotlines may provide services to individuals experiencing specific problems or address a variety of emotional and/or health related issues. Hotlines are often the first link persons in crisis have with formal services.

In the late 1960s, the first crisis hotlines were organized around suicide prevention. Since then, hotlines have been established for rape crisis, domestic violence, teen dating violence, teen runaways, missing and abducted children, and the reporting of abuse of children, elders, or persons with disabilities.

Crisis telephone hotlines are answered 24 hours, 7 days a week. Hotlines are sponsored by community based organizations, state and national organizations, and governmental agencies. While most hotlines target the general population, some hotlines specialize in providing services to specific populations. For example, a community-based program serving the Latino community may offer a hotline in which the services are offered in Spanish. For persons with hearing disabilities, crisis hotlines are accessible through relay services in the United States (by calling 711), and many hotlines also have TTY capacity (the ability to receive text telephone calls).

When an individual calls a crisis hotline, he or she is provided emotional support, information about the problem he or she is facing, potential short and long-term options, and referrals to appropriate service providers. Because people respond to a crisis in different ways, the overall goal of crisis hotline services is to help callers reduce their crisis responses long enough to identify their next steps. Information on the dynamics of abuse and sexual assault, safety planning, options such as protective orders or criminal justice system involvement, and referrals for counseling services are all provided over the telephone. Rape crisis and domestic violence hotlines may send an advocate to meet a caller in need of hospital-based advocacy services or help a caller gain immediate admittance to an emergency shelter. Because of the sensitive nature of the calls, information that a caller reveals over a hotline is confidential. Callers also have the option to remain anonymous.

Hotlines receive calls from persons directly experiencing violence or they may receive calls from relatives, friends, neighbors, and coworkers seeking information on ways they can assist someone. Other service providers may also call the hotline with referrals for individuals they have been seeing.

Crisis hotlines are answered by paid staff or trained volunteers. Staff and volunteers receive training in crisis intervention theory and information on specific issues such as domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, teen dating violence, elder abuse, and the role of other community resources such as law enforcement, hospitals, and agencies addressing child and elder maltreatment. Hotline workers also receive training for specific skills in active listening, crisis intervention strategies, and call documentation. Records are kept about the time and date of the call, specific problems addressed, any referrals made, and whether follow-up is necessary. Identifying information such as names and addresses are not kept to respect the confidentiality of callers.

Hotline telephone numbers are widely publicized. The numbers for local, state, and national hotlines are often located in the emergency numbers pages of local telephone books. Hotline numbers are also available over the Internet. To protect hotline workers, the physical addresses of hotlines are often kept confidential.

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