A lonely and anxious Rebecca Massie first referred to as the Mental Health Association of San Francisco “warmline” during the 2015 winter holidays.
Massie, a San Francisco tenant, later used the line several times when she required further support, then started to volunteer there.
Now anyone in California who requires a little help—or even a referral to a professional therapist—can obtain it by telephone or instant message. In October, the San Francisco-based warmline expanded beyond Northern California to cowl the whole state by a state funds allocation of $10.8 million for three years.
Unlike a hotline for these in immediate disaster, warmlines provide early intervention with the emotional support that may prevent an accident—and a more pricey 911 call or ER visit. The strains are usually free, confidential peer-support services staffed by volunteers or paid employees who’ve experienced psychological health conditions themselves.
Such helplines aren’t limited only to California. Nearly 30 states have kind of a helpline within their frontiers, including in Salt Lake City and Omaha, Neb. Still, the loose network of call lines faces no regulation. They’re comparatively new, so they have not been extensively scrutinized. And their advocates admit quantifying outcomes can be tough.
Better known are the suicide crisis lines for many who need assistance immediately. This summer, the Federal Communications Commission introduced a 988 national hotline number for those considering suicide or having a mental health crisis. But psychological well-being advocates say warmlines help fill another necessary health care gap.
Since the San Francisco Peer-Run Warm Line started in 2014, it has answered over 100,000 calls and served more than 5,000 sufferers. Roughly 85% of callers have been repeating users, said Salazar.