These hotlines are no doubt indispensable. But it's not a perfect system. When you call these helplines, you may encounter delays before you get someone on the other end.
NJ Advance Media called two suicide prevention hotlines in New Jersey. At first, it took several minutes before reaching a person. On a second attempt, however, someone picked up immediately.
On the other line, we waited on the phone for around five minutes. But, again, a second attempt resulted in a person answering immediately.
So it's unclear whether the several-minute waits that we encountered were outliers, or if there can, in fact, be delays at times.
In response to whether there can be varying wait times, Mark A. Graham, a retired Army major general and senior director at the Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care National Call Center, told NJ Advance Media that at NJ Hopeline — a state hotline that is part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — response times can vary from a few minutes during high volume times to a few seconds during low volume times.
He said response times can depend on several factors, including the time of day. The highest call volume occurs at night, around 5 p.m. to around 2 a.m.