Prospective study of association of characteristics of hotline psychological intervention in 778 high-risk callers with subsequent suicidal act

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2020 Dec;54(12):1182-1191. doi: 10.1177/0004867420963739. Epub 2020 Oct 13.


Objectives: This study aimed to assess the association of the quality scores of hotline psychological intervention and the reduction of subsequent suicidal acts among high suicidal risk callers.

Methods: High-risk callers at a national crisis hotline service in China were recruited and prospectively followed for up to 3 months after receiving a hotline psychological intervention. The quality of the intervention was evaluated by supervisors who listened to the tape-recorded calls using the Counseling Skills Rating Scale for Psychological Support Hotlines, which assessed three counseling domains: process, attitude and communication skill. The primary outcome was the occurrence of suicidal acts during the follow-up period. Secondary outcomes were before versus after changes during the intake intervention call in hopefulness, psychological stress and suicide intention reported by the callers.

Results: Over the 3-month follow-up, 45 of 778 high-risk callers reported 61 suicide attempts, and 3 other callers died by suicide. Subsequent suicidal act was significantly more common in callers classified as being at higher risk during the intake call. Higher scores on the quality of suicidality assessing of the Counseling Skills Rating Scale for Psychological Support Hotlines were associated with reduced risk of suicidal acts during follow-up (hazard ratio = 0.38, 95% confidence interval = [0.18, 0.85]). Higher scores on the communication skill domain were associated with increases in hopefulness (β = 0.09) after the intervention, and higher scores on the counseling process domain (β = -0.12) and higher suicidal risk scores (β = -0.12) were associated with decreased suicide intention after intervention.

Conclusion: Several characteristics of a hotline intervention for suicide prevention were associated with decreased risk of suicidal acts during follow-up. Intervention skill training for hotline operators should emphasize these specific counseling skills.

Keywords: Hotline; intervention; prospective study; suicidal risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Crisis Intervention
  • Hotlines*
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychosocial Intervention
  • Suicidal Ideation*