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California Launches Peer-Run Mental Health 'Warm' Line

Johan Larsson / Flickr

California is launching a statewide mental health phone line to help those who need help, but aren't in crisis.

Most counties already run a suicide prevention hotline. But only a few have a “warm line,” which offers emotional support and resource referrals for people who are experiencing depression, anxiety and other symptoms but aren’t considering taking their own lives. 

Mental health advocates say it’s this lower level of care can be vital for people who want to talk to someone about their feelings, but don’t feel they need a crisis line. 

“It’s for people who are, quite honestly just feeling alone,” said Democratic Assemblymember Phil Ting, who pushed for the statewide line. “You’ll get callers who say ‘Hey, I’m not feeling suicidal, but I just want to talk to somebody.’”

The Mental Health Association of San Francisco has been running a Bay Area warm line since 2014, but outreach manager Peter Murphy says they lost their state funding in 2018 and have had to rely on volunteers to stay open. 

Now, they’re using $10.8 million from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first budget to expand the line statewide and operate it for the next three years. The California Peer-Run Warm Line launches in advance of World Mental Health Day on Thursday.

“Especially for isolated areas, rural areas, it can be a great service to provide support for people who may not have very good access to mental health services,” Murphy said. 

The line will be staffed 24/7 by people who have lived experience with mental illness. 

The center expects to receive 25,000 calls per year. 

Reach the California Peer-Run Warm Line at 1-855-845-7415. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255

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