Crisis Call Guidelines

Although they happen rarely, we occasionally receive crisis calls through AskUsNow!. These may be suicide calls or calls that indicate some sort of abuse or threat is involved.


"I am going to kill myself"

"My boyfriend punches me"

"There is a bomb in a locker"

"My father was touching me"


Some of these calls may be pranks, but we should always assume that the call is real and take the situation seriously. The following guidelines are intended to help prepare librarians (i.e. Providers) for the possibility of a crisis call and provide appropriate steps to take in the event of a crisis call.

  • DO always treat suicide or other crisis calls as serious until proven otherwise.
  • DO answer calmly and nonjudgmentally. Strike a balance between professional behavior and supportive behavior. If the patron is in trouble, we want to be friendly, supportive, and approachable, as with all of our patrons. However, remain professional and give resources rather than advice.
  • DO a reference interview. Ask open ended questions like “How would you like me to help you?” One or two clarifying questions will determine if the call is personal in nature or not. We have a suicide script, noting a phone and email hotline (99_crisis_suicide_resources).
  • DO NOT be afraid to show personal sympathy to the patron. Use variations of the statements below as a way to open a dialog in which you can make a referral.

I might have resources to help you.

It makes me sad to hear that.

I want to help you.

Let's work together to figure something out.

I'll do my best to get the information you need.

That must be so hard.  How can I help?

I'm glad you connected with me today.

  • DO refer a caller in crisis to a hotline appropriate to their crisis staffed by mental health professionals or trained crisis volunteers. It is inappropriate for you to provide counseling if you are untrained in those areas.
  • DO NOT worry if you choose to call 911 or not. You have NO LEGAL OBLIGATION to do so. Help the person to the degree to which you feel comfortable. If the customer is unable or unwilling to give you location information, calling 911 would be unnecessary.
  • DO report the transaction, with the Chat Transcript Number, to the Statewide Coordinator. If you do not have the session number, be able to give the day, approximate time, and the name of the Provider.
  • DO notify authorities if you answer "yes" to any of the following questions:

    • Is the health, life and well-being of the customer or someone else at stake?
    • Is the customer or person the customer referring to suicidal or homicidal?
    • Is the customer or person the customer referring to hurting or threatening to hurt someone else (including child or elderly maltreatment)?
    • Is there a crime or violent act in progress?


Suicide Prevention IMAlive is a live online crisis network that uses instant messaging to respond to people in crisis. People need a safe place to go 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) Dedicated to suicide prevention, intervention and healing.

1-800-273-TALK (8255) A 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis.


National Rape Crisis Hotline: 800-656-4673


Child Abuse/Neglect

National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-25-ABUSE The Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with professional crisis counselors who, through interpreters, can provide assistance in 140 languages. The Hotline offers crisis intervention, information, literature, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources.

Missing Children

National Hotline for Missing and Exploited Children: 1-800-843-5678
Operates a hotline for reporting missing children and sightings of missing children. Offers assistance to law enforcement agents. Hours of operation are 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time

National Runaway Switchboard: 1-800-621-4000
Provides crisis intervention and travel assistance to runaways. Provides information and local referrals to adolescents and families. Gives referrals to shelters nationwide. Also relays messages to, or sets up conference calls with, parents at the request of the child. Operates 24 hours, seven days a week.

Domestic & Family Violence

National Domestic Violence/Child Abuse/Sexual Abuse: 1-800-799-SAFE 1-800-942-6908 Spanish Speaking 24-hour-a-day hotline, Provides crisis intervention and referrals to local services and shelters for victims of partner or spousal abuse. English and Spanish speaking advocates are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Youth In Crisis

National Youth Crisis Hotline: 800-442-HOPE (4673) Provides counseling and referrals to local drug treatment centers, shelters, and counseling services. Responds to youth dealing with pregnancy, molestation, suicide, and child abuse. Operates 24 hours, seven days a week.

Boys Town Suicide and Crisis Line: 800-448-3000 Provides short-term crisis intervention and counseling and referrals to local community resources. Counsels on parent-child conflicts, marital and family issues, suicide, pregnancy, runaway youth, physical and sexual abuse, and other issues. Operates 24 hours, seven days a week.

Protecting Children from Sexual Offenders

Criminal Activity

Call the police immediately if you are witnessing a crime being committed, are the victim of a crime, particularly one in progress, or have knowledge of criminal activity.

  • For example: It looks like my neighbor’s house is being robbed.
  • Someone just told me there’s a bomb in the building.
  • My friend told me he’s planning on assaulting someone in school.


Picking up your telephone and dialing 911 will connect you to your local county's 911 call center.  If you have knowledge of criminal activity or emergency in any other jurisdiction, your call can be transferred to the appropriate place, even across state lines.  For knowledge of criminal activity or emergencies abroad or in other countries, still start with your local 911 call center.

Local Police Departments throughout the Country This site provides you with a map of the U.S. on the main page. You can quickly click on the state in which you need assistance. Then, you have your choice of finding numbers for county Sheriff Departments, Town/City Police Departments, and Fire & Rescue Services. 

Shared Script:  "Crisis_Suicide_Resources" (Some of them may have been mentioned beforehand.):

  • Contact MD Crisis Connect at 211, Press 1; Text your zip code to 898211; or Chat at
  • Under 18?  Please call the Maryland Youth Crisis Hotline at 1-800-422-0009.
  • You can call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at any hour of the day at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Click Chat Now at IMAlive at  
  • Text the Crisis Text Linetext to 741741.
  • Consider SAMHSA's Disaster Distress Helpline, a 24/7, 365-day-a--year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text "TalkWithUs" to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
  • If you would prefer to email someone, because you are not urgently needing help, email, an email helpline from (they're out of the UK, but can still help), or the Life Crisis Center contact form at