Helplines are a way for people that are going through difficult times or experiencing challenging feelings and emotions, to talk to someone, be listened to, and receive feedback, advice and help. A helpline is also sometimes also referred to as a hotline or crisis line.

What to expect from a helpline

Depending on the helpline you contact, and your unique situation, the experience will vary, but generally, this is what you can expect:

  • When you first join the call you will probably hear an automated message. The message may ask you to choose between certain options e.g. switching language, or it may ask you to hold until a helpline worker is available to take the call.
  • When a helpline worker is available they will join the call. Whoever you speak to will be trained to offer advice and assistance.
  • The helpline worker will start the conversation by asking you a few questions. Their aim is to get an understanding of what prompted you to call. They may also ask you some personal questions so that they can offer follow up services or more tailored advice, for example your name, age, location etc. You do not have to share this information if you prefer to remain anonymous, just let them know.
  • The conversation will proceed with the helpline worker listening to you, and asking follow up questions. Depending on the circumstances, they may offer advice, ideas or insights. They may also identify the other resources available to you.

How can I prepare before calling a helpline?

In some situations calls to a helpline are emergencies, where someone is feeling lost or overwhelmed and reaches out for immediate help. In other cases making the decision to reach out can be a longer process. Uncertainties about what to expect or what to say, reluctance to talk about sensitive issues, or a fear of being judged may hold you back.

If you are considering speaking to a helpline worker but feel nervous or uncertain about taking this step it may help you to keep in mind that you can say as much or as little as you want to, you can remain anonymous if you wish, and you can end the conversation at any time.

Some people find that preparing a few notes beforehand alleviates their nervousness and helps them to organise their thoughts. Having these notes handy during your call so that you can refer to them could help you get across all of your points and ensure you don’t forget to ask any key questions you have. It is also really useful if you have a place to write notes down during the call as your counsellor will have advice, suggestions and contact details that you may find useful.

The benefits of calling a helpline

Helplines are often the first port of call for people who are going through a difficult time as they are free to use and easily accessible – you do not need to make an appointment and you can access the service from any location.

Sometimes it is comforting just being able to speak to a real person and feel listened to. If you are calling on behalf of a loved one that you are trying to help, having someone to share your concerns and worries with, and receiving their advice can offer a sense of relief.

Helpline workers are trained and experienced and will be able to offer advice, feedback and suggest resources and local service providers. In some cases such as emergencies where immediate assistance is needed, they will be able to contact local services for you.

You can let the helpline worker know that you would rather not share your name, if you want to remain anonymous.

Helplines in New Zealand

  • 1737 – Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.
  • Lifeline – Call 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP).
  • Youthline – Call 0800 376 633, free text 234, email or chat online.
  • Skylight – Call 0800 299 100 for support through trauma, loss and grief. 9am–5pm weekdays.
  • Samaritans – Call 0800 726 666
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline – Call 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • SIDS and Kids – 24-hour sudden infant death helpline 0800 164 455
  • Healthline – Call 0800 611 116
  • – email or free text 5626.
  • What’s Up – Call 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available every day of the week, 365 days of the year, 11am–11pm. Online chat is available from 11am–10:30pm 7 days a week, including all public holidays.
  • Depression Helpline – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 (to talk to a trained counsellor about how you are feeling or to ask any questions).
  • Anxiety Line – Call 0800 ANXIETY (0800 2694 389) – provides education and support around anxiety.
  • Victim Support – Offer support to victims of crime and those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Call 0800 842 846 24 hours a day.

Find support services near you in our nationwide directory.

If you don't want to talk on the phone

In the first days, weeks and months following the loss of a loved one, it can be overwhelming to speak about your loss, you may feel your voice breaking or struggle to speak through tears. Being able to type your thoughts out may be an easier and more effective way of expressing yourself during this time.

Although helplines were traditionally telephone numbers, you can now text or even use online chat options to reach out. Often teenagers and young people who are used to texting as a form of communication feel more comfortable conversing in this way, rather than speaking on the phone.

Helpline workers are trained and experienced and will be able to offer advice, feedback and suggest resources.