Skip to main content
5 answers
Asked 579 views

(TW) What are the base requirements for being a volunteer/operator on the suicide prevention hotline?

I’m a freshman in high school who might be interested in joining the suicide prevention hotline but I can’t find any of the training requirements online. Does anyone know what you need to do and how many hours it takes to become a volunteer or an operator on the network?

+25 Karma if successful
From: You
To: Friend
Subject: Career question for you


5 answers

Share a link to this answer
Share a link to this answer

Lisa Lorraine’s Answer

Hi Elizabeth,
Thank you for your question, as well as your interest in working/volunteering with a suicide prevention hotline.

I did a little a research, and this is a wonderful article to help you get started in the right direction.

How to Work on a Suicide Hotline ~ Co-authored by Sabrina Grover, LMSW

Working on a suicide hotline is important, serious work that can truly make a difference in someone’s life.

While you will receive thorough training before you ever take your first call, remember that one of the most valuable tools you will bring to a caller is your ability to listen.

When people call a suicide hotline, they are making a “cry for help,” and you can be the help that will see them through this crisis.

Your supportive presence, honed through your active listening skills, training, and self-care, will help the caller know they are not alone.

Step 1: Determine if the work is right for you.

Determine if the work is right for you. Working on a suicide hotline can be a high-pressure and emotional experience. You may be dealing with multiple stressful situations per shift that require immediate assessment. You may also need to be comfortable with not having any follow-up to your work.

That said, there are many benefits to working on a suicide hotline, too, including:

Helping people in times of extreme crisis

Developing crisis counseling and listening skills

Making a difference in your community
providing individuals with community resources for continuing care in their time of need

Step 2: Research organizations online.

Determine what agencies are near you, and/or which particular hotline would be the best fit for your values, schedule, and experience. Some national hotlines partner with local organizations to take their calls. You may need to apply directly with the local agency for a position.

There are different types of organizations and ways to connect with those in need:

National hotlines such as the US National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and the Canadian Suicide Crisis Helpline which often work with local crisis centers.

The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention for LGBTQ youth.

Crisis Text Line, a global non-profit which trains persons to work as a crisis counselor in exchange for a commitment to volunteer for 200 hours.

The Veterans Crisis Line, which allows Veterans to connect with someone via live chat, text, or phone call.

Look for employment. Look for job opportunities through the organizations you are interested in, or look on a job board that caters to your area or skill set. Submit your application per the agency’s requirements, and go on an interview if requested.

The qualifications to work as a crisis hotline employee will vary depending on the state and organization you work for, as well as, the level of crisis intervention you are providing.

Many organizations will put their new employees through certified training as there are key things or phrases one needs to listen for, or ask questions about to ensure the caller is connected to the most appropriate level of care.

If you want to be employed by a crisis hotline, you will likely need, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in psychology or human services. A master’s degree in a counseling or social work program could further help you take on direct counseling or supervisory roles.

Keep in mind that for certain roles within the organization, you may require licensure by your state’s human services regulatory agency. These requirements vary by degree, license, and state.

Apply for a volunteer position. If you have a long-term goal of being employed by a suicide hotline, you can gain experience and skills by working as a volunteer for a suicide or crisis hotline. Having volunteer experience will look great on future employment applications.

Check out your local shelters. Domestic violence shelters in particular are always willing to accept volunteers.

These places are generally short-staffed and have very little to no funding to pay for another employee. The more free help they can find, the better. In addition, you will get experience providing crisis intervention face-to-face with clients to really hone on your skills.

It is always good to start off volunteering for an organization of preference and connect with others with experience. Through this connection, you get a feel of this line of work and decide if it works for you. Also, connecting with an experienced crisis hotline worker, and/or crisis counselor will help you identify what level or type of crisis work you wish to do.

There are many different levels, each offering their own set of responsibilities, pay, and different levels of required education and experience.

Remember, you can still help at a suicide hotline even if you are not taking calls!
Help is always needed for fundraising, events, marketing, and administrative support

How old do I need to be to work at a suicide hotline?

You should be 18 or older, and have some training in and experience with the subject matter.

You can get paid, although this varies on the job and hotline you are part of. Most opportunities are volunteer only, while some pay regularly.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much!! Elizabeth
Thank you comment icon Thank you, Lisa! NOTE: The links for don't work but if you go to the main page, there are many resources you can read. Sharyn Grose, Admin
Share a link to this answer
Share a link to this answer

Kelly’s Answer

Hello Elizabeth,

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing provides a range of certifications in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), which can equip you with the necessary skills for a role in your chosen field. Each level involves coursework, live teaching, and an exam. The Council offers distinct programs tailored for adults, children, emergency responders, instructors, and various professional environments. My doctoral program recently provided this certification opportunity for anyone ready to dedicate a day for it. I would suggest considering these certifications before embarking on a full degree.

Throughout the certification process, the term "someone with lived experience" is frequently used. Consequently, there may be instances where organizations prefer individuals who have triumphed over depression, addiction, or survived a suicide attempt. While this is not a mandatory requirement, the certification team hinted that many individuals who have successfully recovered often choose this field.

You can even aspire to become an instructor. Here's a link to guide you through the process:

Remember, every step you take towards this goal is a step towards making a difference. Keep going!
Share a link to this answer
Share a link to this answer

James Constantine’s Answer

Hello Elizabeth,

Base Requirements for Being a Volunteer/Operator on the Suicide Prevention Hotline

To become a volunteer or operator on a suicide prevention hotline, there are typically several base requirements that individuals need to meet. These requirements may vary slightly depending on the organization running the hotline, but some common prerequisites include:

Training Program: Most suicide prevention hotlines require volunteers to undergo a comprehensive training program before they can start taking calls. This training is crucial as it equips volunteers with the necessary skills and knowledge to handle sensitive and potentially distressing situations.

Age Requirement: Volunteers are usually required to be at least 18 years old, although some organizations may accept volunteers as young as 16 with parental consent.

Background Check: Due to the nature of the work involved in operating a suicide prevention hotline, volunteers may be required to undergo a background check to ensure they are suitable for the role.

Availability: Volunteers are often expected to commit to a certain number of hours per week or month. This commitment is essential to ensure that there are always trained individuals available to answer calls from those in crisis.

Compassion and Empathy: While not necessarily formal requirements, having qualities such as compassion, empathy, and good listening skills is crucial for anyone looking to volunteer on a suicide prevention hotline.

Mental Health Awareness: Volunteers should have a basic understanding of mental health issues and be able to provide non-judgmental support to callers who may be experiencing emotional distress.

Continuing Education: Some organizations may require volunteers to participate in ongoing education and training sessions to stay up-to-date on best practices in suicide prevention and crisis intervention.

Training Duration

The duration of the training program can vary depending on the organization and the specific requirements they have in place. Training programs for suicide prevention hotlines typically range from several days to several weeks. During this time, volunteers learn about active listening techniques, crisis intervention strategies, suicide risk assessment, and how to provide emotional support to individuals in distress.

It’s important for prospective volunteers to inquire directly with their local suicide prevention hotline or organization for specific details regarding training requirements and duration.

Top 3 Authoritative Sources Used:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is one of the most well-known organizations providing crisis intervention services through its hotline. Their website offers valuable information on volunteering opportunities and training requirements.

American Association of Suicidology (AAS): AAS is a leading organization dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide. They provide resources and guidelines for individuals interested in volunteering on suicide prevention hotlines.

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE): SAVE is another reputable organization that offers information on suicide prevention efforts, including volunteer opportunities and training programs for those interested in helping prevent suicides through hotlines.

These sources were consulted to ensure accurate and up-to-date information regarding the base requirements for volunteering on a suicide prevention hotline.

James Constantine Frangos.
Share a link to this answer
Share a link to this answer

Hwal’s Answer


I have been a Crisis Counsellor with Crisis Text Line and would highly recommend becoming one. Here's information on how to become a Crisis Counsellor with Crisis Text Line:

I think I completed the volunteer training in 2017, and seem to recall it was about 20-40 hours long, and although I did have prior training as a registered mental health counsellor, the volunteer training was a great experience and preparation for my role with Crisis Text Line.

Let me know if you have any specific questions I can help with.

Good luck!

Thank you comment icon Thank you for the advice. Elizabeth
Share a link to this answer
Share a link to this answer

JOHN’s Answer

Hello: - this would be a discord forum that helps to interact with those having mental health issues and/or emotional dips. You can respond and help them with love, kindness, empathetic heart, and beyond. Possibly a situation that would help you volunteer on top of this hotline.

For the volunteering for hotline:

Gratitude into your roads.

God Bless,

John German
Thank you comment icon Thanks! 😊 appreciate it Elizabeth