Suicide prevention hotlines see an uptick in calls during the COVID-19 pandemic

Inland SOCAL United Way calls it the "HELPLINE," but the counselors answering phones 24 hours a day have become a real lifeline.  

"The calls have become more severe," said call center manager Jenn Carson. "We’ve gotten calls from people aged 10 to 90 who are suicidal. Just a week ago we actually helped a 10-year-old who was attempting suicide get to a hospital."

Since the beginning of the year, the helpline has received more than 4,000 calls. The reasons for the uptick are many— from isolation to job losses, to the fear of the unknown.

"It’s really the perfect storm of suffering right now," Carson said.

Last June, Riverside County launched an ambitious effort and coalition to eliminate suicide and save lives, offering free training classes to anyone willing to help.

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"We’re not training therapists. We’re training moms and dads and pastors and coaches and teachers and neighbors and anyone that wants to help someone they love or care about who might be having thoughts of suicide," said Diana Brown, admin services manager with the Riverside University Health System.  

Brown says it’s better to open a conversation with someone in distress or anxiety.

"When we ask directly and say 'I’m worried about you. I’m wondering if you’re thinking about killing yourself.' What we’re saying it’s ok to talk to me. It’s safe. The likelihood increases someone will let you know where they are if you’re having those thoughts, and you have the opportunity to support them and link them to resources to get help," Brown says.

If you need help or know someone who needs help you can call the Riverside County Helpline
www.951-686-HELP. For free GateKeeper training, you can contact Inland SOCAL United Way at

If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (tel:18002738255). Or text HOME to 741-741 (Crisis Text Line).

CLICK HERE for the warning signs and risk factors of suicide.