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A crisis hotline is a phone number people can call to get immediate over-the-phone emergency counseling, usually by trained volunteers. Such hotlines have existed in most major cities of the United States at least since the mid-1970s. Initially set up to help those contemplating suicide, many have expanded their mandate to deal more generally with emotional crises. They have also spawned similar hotlines to help counsel people in other circumstances, including rape victims, runaway children, homosexuals facing difficulties, and suchlike.
Such services began in 1953, when Chad Varah, an English vicar, founded The Samaritans service, which soon established branches throughout the United Kingdom.
In the United States, San Francisco Suicide Prevention started a hotline "Call Bruce" in 1962. A similar service, Lifeline, was established in Australia in 1963.
One criticism of suicide hotlines is that those who are determined to kill themselves are unlikely to call one. Also, those with social anxiety may not have the emotional resources to do so. There is no evidence that the presence of suicide hotlines reduces the incidence of suicide. 
Directories of Crisis Hotlines
- Main article: List of crisis hotlines by country.
- Befrienders Worldwide (maintained by Lifelink Samaritans UK)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a hotline funded by the United States federal government
- IFOTES - International Federation of Telephone Emergency Services, and
- Lifeline International
- Suicidehotlines.com, a directory of American hotlines
- Helpline 2-1-1 Serves the 8 counties of the Big Bend, Florida. Dial 2-1-1 or 850-617-6333.
- The Lowdown, a project funded by the New Zealand government
Services for children and adolescents
- Childline - UK - for children and young people in the UK - 0800 1111
- Kids Help Line Australia - 1800 55 1800
- Young America Hotline, an American teenager peer counseling hotline
- The Trevor Project, an American hotline aimed principally at LGBT teenagers.
- Kids Help Phone - 1 800 668 6868
- National Runaway Switchboard at http://1800runaway.com - For teens in the U.S. who have ran away or are thinking about running away.
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