You know about hotlines offering free 24/7 help to people having an emotional emergency. But what if your really, really bad day doesn't qualify as a crisis? Consider a "warmline."

These free, locally based, peer-to-peer resources were created to give people with mental health issues someone to talk to after business hours or between appointments, says Chris Pudlinski, PhD, a communications professor at Central Connecticut State University who has studied warmlines. You don't need a diagnosis to dial in. The person on the other end will be a paid staffer or volunteer who has received mental health services; many callers find it powerful to talk to someone who has faced similar struggles and found a way to move forward, says Scott Metzger, director of recovery services at the nonprofit Sweetser, which operates a warmline in Maine.

To find a toll-free or local number, try Googling "warmline" and your state, suggests Rebecca Dalgin, PhD, director of the rehabilitation counseling program at the University of Scranton. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the National Sexual Assault Hotline will also take calls from people in nonemergency situations, and the organization Exhale runs a national talk line that exclusively offers post-abortion support.

You won't be able to talk to a mental health professional or get a diagnosis or a prescription, and there may be a time limit on your call. But the person you talk to will likely have a list of resources to help you find in-person help should you want it. Your conversation may be the nudge you need to take the next step.


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