How to call a helpline

Calling a helpline is an accessible way to get the support you need. Learn more about what to expect when contacting a helpline and the kinds of help they can provide. If you think that a helpline isn’t the best option for what you're going through, there are also other types of support available. You can start by learning about what mental health professionals do.

Why would I call a helpline?

There are lots of reasons why calling a helpline can be useful. You can get immediate support and advice from a counsellor without having to make an appointment or travel somewhere. You don’t have to give your name, and most helplines don’t cost anything. People also see helplines as a way to feel in control of a situation.

Telephone counsellors can even direct you to other services that might be useful for your particular problem. It’s completely okay to call a helpline – no problem is too big or small. People call helplines with lots of different problems. Some of them include:

  • feeling overwhelmed

  • family problems

  • friendship or family problems

  • feeling lonely

  • feeling unsafe (such as having thoughts of suicide or self-harm)

  • mental illness

  • bullying

  • experiencing abuse.

What can I expect when I call a helpline?

What happens first?

When you call a helpline, you’ll probably hear a pre-recorded message about the service you’ve called. Depending on the time of day and the type of helpline, you might have to wait a while until a counsellor is available.

Who will answer my call?

A trained telephone counsellor will speak with you. People who work at helplines have extensive training in talking to people and helping them with a variety of issues.

What will they ask me?

Your telephone counsellor will ask you questions about your situation to best understand what you need. Calls can last from a few minutes to up to an hour. They won’t ask you for your last name, address, or any information that could identify you, unless you are showing risk of harm to yourself or others. Generally, you don’t even need to say your first name if you don’t want to.

How can they help?

The counsellor you speak to will listen to your problem carefully. They may help you to work out possible solutions. Or they might tell you about services near you that know more about your particular issue or could provide long-term help.

What if more help is needed?

Some problems require more support than a helpline can provide. Telephone counsellors will usually be able to refer you to other services if appropriate. If you need ongoing support, consider speaking to your GP. School counsellors or university counselling services can also be a great source of support for various problems, not just for issues with your studies.

If you’re not comfortable with these options, consider talking to a friend, family member or another trusted adult. Remember: recognising that you need help and then asking for it are the first steps towards feeling better.

What can I do now?