Mental Health Hotline

Medically Reviewed By:

Robert Gerchalk

Robert is our health care professional reviewer of this website. He worked for many years in mental health and substance abuse facilities in Florida, as well as in home health (medical and psychiatric), and took care of people with medical and addictions problems at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He has a nursing and business/technology degrees from The Johns Hopkins University.

Stress is at an all-time high in the United States, and the American Psychological Association says effects of the coronavirus will be “serious and long-lasting.” If everybody is feeling lonely and anxious, how do you know when it’s time to get help? The good news is that you don’t have to figure it out yourself. The National Rehab Hotline at 866-210-1303 can answer your questions confidentially and free of charge. Find out where to go for treatment, what the symptoms of specific conditions are, or how to approach some else if you think they need help. The hotline operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

What Is Mental Health?

“Mental health” refers to the condition of your psychological, social, and emotional well-being. It determines how you think, deal with stress, get along with others, and make decisions. It affects you from childhood through adulthood and varies over the years, depending on factors like brain chemistry, DNA, and other biological factors; history of abuse or trauma; and genetic predisposition to mental illness.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists 15 early warning signs that something might be wrong:

1. Lack of energy or motivation
2. Sleeping too little or too much
3. Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, or numbness
4. Withdrawing from activities or people that once brought pleasure
5. Unexplained physical complaints and illnesses
6. Feelings of helplessness or inability to act
7. Trouble getting along with family or friends
8. Increase in use of alcohol, drugs, or nicotine
9. Intense mood swings that affect performance and social life
10. Relationship problems caused by moodiness
11. Irritability, confusion, anger, anxiety, fear, or memory problems
12. Compulsive thinking or unwanted memories
13. Believing things that aren’t true (including paranoia) or hearing voices
14. Thoughts of harming oneself or others
15. Inability to carry out daily responsibilities at home or work

Good mental health enables you to live up to your potential, cope with stress, be productive, and contribute to society in meaningful ways. Living a healthy lifestyle, having a positive attitude, being part of a community, and helping others play a role. It’s also important to learn ways to cope with stress, practice good self-care habits, and ask for help when it’s needed.

Mental illness can be treated. Symptoms and treatments vary, however, depending on the individual and the specific illness.

What Is Mental Illness?

Mental illness, or mental disorder, is a general term for any health problem that interferes with thinking, behavior, or relationships and makes you unable to perform daily tasks. It includes a group of illnesses diagnosed by specific criteria.

Here are some of the most common mental disorders:

1. Anxiety, including generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder
2. Mood disorders (also called affective disorders), including bipolar disorder (used to be called manic-depressive disorder) and depression
3. Personality disorders, including narcissistic personality and borderline personality disorders
4. Eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating
5. Post-traumatic stress disorder
6. Psychotic disorders (also called thought disorders), including schizophrenia. (Some people have schizo-affective disorder where they have schizophrenia symptoms along with bipolar or depressive disorder symptoms. We also may see psychotic symptoms in people with depression, bipolar disorder, or caused by certain drugs, or in alcohol withdrawal.)

During their lives, approximately 1 in 2 Americans will be diagnosed with a mental disorder, an assessment that is based on medical history, a psychological evaluation, and a physical exam. Disorders may also occur together, or one may follow another. Examples include depression and anxiety or a substance use disorder and PTSD.

What Causes Mental Health Disorders?

Mental illness can’t be attributed to a single cause, but it may be linked to a variety of specific factors. The three most common include family history and genes, chemical imbalances in the brain or other biological conditions, and past trauma or abuse. Other factors include traumatic brain injury, exposure to toxins in the womb, substance use, and serious physical illness. Individuals who have few friends or feel isolated are also at risk.

How Is a Mental Crisis Different From a Mental Emergency?

A mental health emergency can involve an imminent threat to oneself or others, but it can also apply to someone who is not able to function, extremely disoriented and out of touch with reality, or out of control and distraught. Examples include someone who is acting on a threat to commit suicide or threatening to hurt someone. It may also apply to severe intoxication or highly unpredictable, dangerous behavior. For a mental health emergency, call 911.

A mental health crisis is a situation that involves someone who is in emotional distress, has thoughts of harm to self or others, is out of touch with reality, unable to function, and can’t calm down. An example is talk of suicide without imminent danger. Substance use, going off psychiatric medications, low mood, and eating disorders may fall into this category.

If there is doubt, call 911. If the situation is ongoing but not an immediate threat, it’s time to talk to someone about getting help. In this case, resources like The National Rehab Hotline 866-210-1303 can help.

Is It a Myth or a Fact?

The knowledge and administration of mental health care have improved in the past 20 years, but there are still misconceptions that create a stigma and prevent many of us from getting the care we need. Let’s put these myths to rest:

1. Mental health problems only affect a minority of our society.
NOT TRUE: Mental illness is common. In 2014, 20% of American adults experienced a mental disorder, and half of those involved major depression. Four in 100 had a serious illness, such as major depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder.

2. Mental illness makes people dangerous.
NOT USUALLY TRUE: Only 3-5% of violent acts result from people with a serious mental illness, but individuals with severe mental disorders are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent acts than the rest of the population.

3. Children don’t have mental health disorders.
NOT TRUE: Children may show symptoms of mental health issues when they’re very young, but they usually can’t be diagnosed at that age. Approximately 1 in 2 mental health disorders show up before the age of 14, and 3 in 4 start before the age of 24. Fewer than 1 in 5 children and teens who can be diagnosed get the treatment they need.

4. Jobs are too stressful for people with mental illness.
NOT NECESSARILY TRUE: Sometimes, someone who has a severe mental health problem can’t do a particular job, but most can be good workers. While some patients do have trouble getting and staying employed and receive disability benefits, others, with proper treatment, are able to have careers, families, and enjoy their lives.

5. Mental health issues result from a lack of motivation or willpower.
NOT TRUE: Mental illness is not a sign of weakness or poor character. On the contrary, a person has to be strong to fight a mental health condition. Telling someone to “snap out of it” is hurtful, and it’s simply not possible. They may get better with treatment, and many completely recover.

6. Talk therapy and self-help programs don’t work.
NOT TRUE: Treatment varies for every patient and may include counseling and/or medication, depending on the disorder and the individual. When a person sees their therapist, whether during hospitalization, rehab or when living on their own, they can feel accountable to their therapist and this will improve their behavior and coping skills. A strong support system is crucial to recovery and relapse prevention.

7. There’s nothing friends or family can do.
NOT TRUE: Loved ones can assist by making treatment accessible, reaching out with support, learning about the illness and its symptoms, and treating the individual with respect.

8. Mental conditions can’t be prevented.
NOT TRUE: Eliminating or reducing factors that contribute to mental illness helps people of all ages, but it is especially important for children and adolescents. It leads to better education, lower crime rates, greater productivity, stronger economic conditions, lower health care expenses, a better quality of life, and longer lifespans.

9. Medication is all it takes to get well.
NOT TRUE: Some illnesses require prescription medications to keep them under control, but counseling and group support are also essential for the best possible outcome. Some conditions don’t need to be treated with pills, but talk therapy and cognitive-behavioral training are still important.

How to Find a Treatment Center

Because everyone has unique needs and responses, they also respond differently to treatment. A rehab program tailored to suit individual patients improves recovery rates and lowers the odds of relapse. Depending on issues like budget and work demands, programs may be inpatient or outpatient. Inpatient programs include live-in facilities, and outpatient services allow participants to return home at night.

Substance use disorder often occurs along with mental health disorders, and it affects the lives of addicts and everyone around them. To succeed, rehab must address substance use and co-occurring disorders, careers, health and general well-being, and relationships. It should also uncover the original cause for the addiction and offer ways to replace the old behavior with healthier ways to deal with stress and trauma.

A medically supervised detox program is usually the first step for addicts, followed by rehab and aftercare. The entire process is easier if one provider offers detox, rehab, and treatment of both substance use and mental disorders.If there is a serious mental health emergency, that needs to be stabilized first, and then the person can proceed with substance abuse treatment.

Seven Reasons to Call a Mental Health Hotline

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you or someone you love is in distress, and talking to friends or relatives may be difficult. Reaching out saves lives, however, and a hotline provides the ear of a compassionate professional who knows how to deal with a mental health crisis. Sometimes, a brief conversation is all it takes to put things in perspective and move forward.

A helpline can help in many ways, including these:

1. Providing information about mental health treatment centers and how they work
2. Educating callers about mental health issues and their impact on society
3. Offering guidance and encouragement to patients and their families
4. Explaining the different types of mental illnesses and their symptoms
5. Serving as a clearinghouse for resources like websites and support groups
6. Suggesting options for the next steps to take toward recovery
7. Supporting callers during times of crisis

Making the Call

Most people don’t like asking for help, even when they get stuck and don’t know to move forward. The good news is that it’s never too early to call a helpline when someone is in distress, and there are no silly questions. Sometimes, it’s enough just to know you aren’t on the path alone. When someone mentions suicide, no matter how casually, this must be taken seriously. However, sometimes this is actually a call for help. Reaching out to help can save a life.

When you call The National Rehab Hotline, make a list of the things you want to know beforehand, and keep a pen and paper handy to jot down information. Our staff members know that you feel vulnerable and reluctant to share your story, and they’re trained to get to the core of the matter without making you more distraught. We listen without judging, suggest steps for moving forward, and make recommendations or referrals. In the end, however, it’s up to callers to weigh the information we provide and decide how to proceed.

The National Rehab Hotline is free and available 24/7/365 to help anyone struggling through a substance use or mental health crisis get immediate help.


Our crisis hotline specialists can provide resourceful information about alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental health, and what the next steps for yourself or your loved one might be. This may include treatment suggestions, immediate crisis support & intervention, or we can guide you towards local resources