The documents below provide information on the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline policy and practice of covertly tracing calls, texts, and online interactions without caller knowledge or consent, and sending police and ambulance or mobile mental health crisis teams to visit and potentially take callers to psychiatric hospitals. See my article about these issues here: Suicide Hotlines Bill Themselves as Confidential, Even as Some Trace Your Call.

Lifeline Policy for Helping Callers at Imminent Risk of Suicide (SAMHSA and NSPL). This describes the policy for call tracing and police interventions, and also provides historical background to the policy.

NENA Suicide Prevention Standard (National Emergency Number Association and NSPL). This outlines some of the technology and processes involved in implementing the policy.

Helping Callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Who are at Imminent Risk of Suicide (Draper, Murphy et al. Journal of the American Association of Suicidology). I provide a full copy of this published journal article written by directors of the NSPL because I believe it is in the public interest for it to be generally available.

Results of a 2017-18 Survey of National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call Centers (NSPL, SAMHSA, and Vibrant Emotional Health). This contains data on numbers of calls traced, obtained through freedom of information processes. Also contains financial and other information about the call centers.

Call Volumes and Reasons for Calls to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call Centers (NSPL and SAMHSA). This contains data on the main reasons for calls, obtained through freedom of information processes.

SAMHSA, Vibrant Emotional Health, and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Centers Network Agreement Contract (SAMHSA, Vibrant Emotional Health, NSPL, and Call Centers). This is the official agreement that all crisis centers must sign to become members of the NSPL, and also describes the intervention policy.

Featured diagram above is from a Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission report.

See my follow-up article “Roll-out of 988 Threatens Anonymity of Crisis Lines.” Some of the related documents are these minutes of meetings at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Standards, Practices and Training Committee Meeting August 2020; Lived Experience Committee Meeting October 2020; Standards, Practices and Training Committee Meeting December 2020.

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  1. Hugh Janus October 4, 2022 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    Thanks Rob. I’ve lived it.

    My father struggled with depression for a lifetime. His biggest regret? Telling anyone he suffered at all. The fallout was widespread and lasting. It effected him professionally and personally. He never could shake the stigma assigned to someone who suffers a mental illness.

    Sadly, he didn’t have the luxury to work on the root causes of depression because he had to deal with the fallout of expressing himself. A twist of irony many will relate to; people that could use help, but wont seek it for the reasons my father gave.

    So for anyone calling these “confidential” suicide hotlines, or just anyone wishing to get a load off their chest, they ought to be read a disclaimer similar to our Miranda Rights during an arrest.: “The depressed is aware that anything he says can be used against him in court as he may have to fight for the restoration of his freedom, and most certainly in the court of public opinion where he will battle endlessly for his reputation.”

  2. Hugh Janus October 4, 2022 at 3:30 pm - Reply


    Liked the article on suicide hotline tracing. I suspected it. And that’s the problem. People who have been betrayed by friends, family, and medical providers realize there is no such thing as a confidential way to say scary things

    Betrayals of confidence kills more people than those the mental health community claims to save. No one wants to be responsible for having last talked to the dead guy. While the white coat community pats itself on the back for every forcible intervention, a thousand more have learned that there really is no safe way to share scary thoughts. This is the source of the “if we only had known” syndrome.

    Turns out you’ll never know anything about people who avoid treatment because people value above all else, their personal sovereignty. If you threaten my freedom, my gun, my career, my record, you make yourself feel better, but I am the one who is taught there is really nowhere to go, no one to talk to, and only one option.

    • Rob Wipond October 4, 2022 at 5:19 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your thoughts, Hugh. You make a very good point about how widespread the “if we only had known syndrome” is and it’s likely direct connection to these equally widespread fears and bad reactions when people do share their feelings.

  3. Alex July 27, 2022 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Thank you for putting up this info….it’s very useful and revealing.

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