Instead of Killing Myself, I Called a Suicide Hotline

By Joel LeonDecember 11, 2017

With the new year approaching, we wanted to spend the month of December looking back on the top 8 blogs of 2017. This post was originally published on September 12, 2017.

This post was originally published here. With the author’s permission, we were able to share it.

It is a very surreal feeling, the feeling of wanting to end your life, especially in urban terrains such as New York City — there are no quiet places in this town, the town with a million and one buses and cars and windows and stories; a city with people and lights louder than the next thunder scream; there are no closed, clear spaces for suicide. Everything and everyone jammed in, all in earshot of each other, each one privy to the next one’s pain and suffering. Almost every death will be done in public, every suicide by another body living, breathing, being, and coexisting alongside the brick and steel and concrete crowding the pathways.

You will be on a train looking for exits, trains full of other bodies, all commuting to a home, a place, an escape route; you, you are leaning against the doors, hoping they open on accident and you fall through— can I pry these doors open with my hands? Will anyone stop me? Will I hear my body break before the breaking happens? How would it feel to jump onto the tracks? Would it be quick? If I survive, how much damage would I have already done to my body in process? How much pain can I take to die?

You imagine getting off the train and jumping right then; you remember the Latinx brother on the train the other day, oozing patriarchal stereotypes and machismo, him looking to break someone’s face, and you ask what if you had indulged, engaged that day…wanting to numb yourself, be in pain, or die quick and hard enough to make what still lives, disappear.

When you finally grab a seat, a majority of the train has now emptied, and a child of nine years or so sits beside you, her father standing in front of her; their talk gravitates towards a cousin who, ironically, died by suicide (only in New York will someone think of dying by suicide, only to wind up near a family talking about someone who died by suicide. God is a comedian, I believe.) The young girl asks her father a series of questions:

“Why did he jump in front of the train?”

“Was he unhappy?

“Maybe he had good days, but he had more bad days than good, maybe that’s why?”

Last stop, and look at the father and let him know “your daughter is smart.” Being above ground, everywhere you look, you are scanning for ways to do it, but recognize you are far too scared — scared of the pain, of not seeing your daughter grow, of missing out on the dreams and things you promised of yourself, for yourself. This too, feels cowardly: the thought of ending your life but being fearful of actually ending it. What spectrum of the suicide wheelhouse is this? You resolve yourself to an intake at a hospital. Calling 911 and saying you want to harm yourself is an ambulance, and ambulances are expensive. You have worked in social services; they will not keep you overnight. You know the checklist: do you have a plan, are you carrying a weapon, are you a threat to yourself or others? At best, they will schedule you a follow-up appointment to see a psychiatrist. You just want a room where you have to remove your belt and boots, no shoelaces please. You need a break from people and work and co-parenting and expectations. Death feels easier. But, too much depends on you, on your life and shoulders (these thoughts also further the suicidal ideations), so you THEN decide to call a suicide hotline.

Nothing will gnaw at you like conducting a Google search on “suicide prevention” for yourself. NYC Well is a hotline and text-based service created in order to assist those looking to speak to someone. Texting will feel most appropriate, because even though you are suicidal, you still have responsibilities: you still need to buy groceries, you still need to see your daughter. You do not want to openly cry in public, on public transportation. You are a man, there are stigmas here, people will judge you. This is the weight of suicide, of self-harm. You do not want to be shamed on the surface, so you will text first. You will get on the bus and text the number, only to be prompted via text for the “press 1 for English” option.

It is two minutes before the “How can I help you today?” text arrives. In those two minutes, the blood moves in all the directions it can inside of you. Those two minutes will see you wanting to jump out of your skin, off of the bus, and into moving traffic.

“Im sorry to hear that your feeling this way,” on top of being a grammatically awful and poorly structured text, was too automated, too inhumane and too impersonal for someone looking for a ledge or a rope or a reason not to survive. At this point, the bus has pulled up by a hospital, and the decision is made to get off the bus, call a trusted hotline source, and be prepared to go into the hospital if need be to save your life.

You call and wait to be connected, and after that minute or so wait, you speak to an elder Black woman, elder because you can hear the age and timbre of her experienced voice, and hear her breath while you cry and sob and weep in public, and hear her breath and listen and tell you how good you are, tells you to pat yourself on the back, and tells you you are a great father. She asks your name and she tells you hers and you hope she knows she saved your life, that all that was needed was someone to not want from you, to not want to take anything from you; not to demand or question you or your thoughts or your actions; only giving, only offering, only loving.

There are great days, good days, not-so-good-days, and “It would be so much easier not to be here” days. Suicide is not a “selfish” act, and attempting to categorize it as such is demeaning of the layered ways in which one who IS suicidal sees their life, and their role in the lives of others. When you feel worthless, taking your own life will feel far better than the pressure of living for others. Despite the self-help, spiritually-awakened craze that has been the topic of many a yoga mat over the past few years, a simple “change in attitude”, change of diet, and Buddhist retreat are not the cure-alls for some. Life is hard, very beautiful and grand, but hard. Sometimes, kumbaya and holding hands and ohm and chanting will not absolve the pain, will not minimize the broken dangling inside of you. The responsibilities of this generation, one can argue, are by far the most complex we’ve seen in the history of modern civilization — the advent of the internet, social media, and the like has created an influx of new and previously undiagnosed disorders affecting the way we speak, feel, and interact with one another. With that, our approaches to mental health and mental health treatment have also shifted. However, one thing that has yet to change is our human need and desire to be heard, to be listened to, to feel like our voices and hurt and wounds and scars matter to someone other than ourselves. This is why hotlines will always be important, and will always be an important service in the fight against suicide.

So, thank you National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for saving my life, and countless others lives. If you or a loved one are under emotional duress, and need someone to talk to, please call 1 (800) 273–8255 immediately. Your life matters, I promise.

We have learned from the Black Emotional And Mental Health Collective that “Black people are 7 times more likely to live in areas with limited access to mental health care. There is a shortage of black mental health providers, and only a third of Black people who need mental health services receive treatment.”

We have to keep talking about the mental health effects of systemic racism and discrimination. For mental health resources created by and for Black people, click here.

Leave a Reply

Comments (9)

  1. Given Up

    I tried these hot lines. Called: the put me on hold for 10 minutes and then they hung up. Called back same thing. Texted: 2 hours later get a response, just a spiel of their services as I waited. This happened multiple times, multiple days. It’s hard to get through a rough time when the “helpful” lines don’t care and just ignore you. Apparently even suicide hotline thinks I’m not worth their time.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      We are so incredibly sorry to hear that you’ve had bad experiences when calling hotlines for help. While we are not professionals, nor a crisis line, we are here. You can email us any time at [email protected]. Our response may not be immediate, but we will reply. Always.

      And if we you haven’t tried Crisis Text Line, we encourage you to. If you text TWLOHA to 741741 you’ll be connected to a trained counselor. It’s a free service that’s available 24/7.

      You are worthy of help, of this life, of love and respect — even when you don’t feel that way, and others aren’t treating you that way.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
  2. Nikki

    I don’t know how many times I have texted the crisis hotline. When I’m full of anxiety, having panic attacks, or suicidal thoughts. They have always replied back and stayed with me through it until I felt better. Feeling alone causes my anxiety to go full throttle, so knowing someone real is there to talk to helps. They distract my mind and ask me about life and my goals and remind me that my life matters. They have literally saved my life numerous times. I can’t thank them enough. I wish I could personally find them and hug each one. I have never called because my anxiety won’t allow me to. I’m very thankful for the text hotline. You guys are truly helping lives. I love you guys so much!

    Reply  |  
  3. Jill

    Crisis Text Line is a legit alternative for people in crisis but may be more comfortable communicating through text vs a phone call. CTL is free & offers 24/7 support from a trained Crisis Counselor. Crisis Text Line trains volunteers to support people in crisis. With over 54 million messages to date, they must be doing something right.

    Reply  |  
  4. Chris

    None of this is true.
    All they do is send the police to have you forced into a ER until they can place you on a 72 hour hold at a mental institution.
    There you will be labeled as a danger to yourself and others, and the institution will send a file to the FBI so you are placed on a watch list for life.
    This is true in 100% of cases.
    There are not any “counselors” and that is never how those hotlines work.
    The job of volunteers is to get your location so they can send the police to pick you up.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA


      We’re sorry to hear that you haven’t had good experiences when calling a hotline. Everyone’s interactions are different, but we do believe that these resources are invaluable to people who are struggling with mental illness and may be in danger of harming themselves.

      The people who volunteer for Crisis Text Line are trained crisis counselors who are there to offer you help for free, 24/7. Their hope is to provide the person reaching out with the most suitable avenue of help.

      If you are in need of help from a professional counselor, we encourage you to check out for free or reduced cost resources in your area.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
  5. Lee-Ellen Marvin

    Dear John:

    We run a small crisis center, part of the National Lifeline system, and would like to post a quote from this blog on our website and Facebook page. May we do that with a citation back to this essay?

    Our web site:
    Our facebook page:

    This is the quote which captures exactly what we strive to offer on our line:

    “However, one thing that has yet to change is our human need and desire to be heard, to be listened to, to feel like our voices and hurt and wounds and scars matter to someone other than ourselves. This is why hotlines will always be important, and will always be an important service in the fight against suicide.

    So, thank you National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for saving my life, and countless others lives. If you or a loved one are under emotional duress, and need someone to talk to, please call 1 (800) 273–8255 immediately. Your life matters, I promise.”

    Reply  |  
  6. Lisa Dodge

    Is it just listening or are you eventually “forced” into hospitalization? I am advocating for a young friend (20) and I promised her that nothing will happen that she does not want to happen if she reaches out.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Hey Lisa,

      We totally understand your friend’s concern. We also want to say how grateful we are that you are advocating on her behalf. That’s amazing.

      Would you email our team at [email protected] so we can offer you some more information?

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
Get Email Updates

Sign up for our newsletter to hear updates from our team and how you can help share the message of hope and help.