What is the Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH)?
The DDH is a program of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The DDH provides 24/7/365 crisis counseling and emotional support for anyone in the United States and its territories struggling with distress or other mental health concerns during any phase of a natural or human-caused disaster.
What services does the DDH provide?
• Toll-free, multilingual, 24/7/365 crisis hotline 1-800-985-5990 available across U.S./territories.
– For 24/7 “live” counseling in Spanish, hotline callers can simply press “2.”
– Support in 100+ additional languages is available via third-party interpretation services.
• 24/7 support via SMS (English: text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746 and Spanish; text ‘Hablanos’).
• The deaf, hard of hearing, or people with speech disabilities can utilize the texting option, connect with a DDH counselor via TTY (1-800-846-8517), dial 7-1-1 or use another preferred telephone relay services to connect with the hotline.
When should I refer someone to the DDH?
Referrals to the DDH are appropriate when an individual:
• Expresses symptoms of significant emotional distress or other mental health concerns related to a disaster, especially when they describe the distress/concerns as impeding their regular functioning in some way at home, school or work.
• Has expressed a past, recent or present threat to themselves or others, i.e., suicidal/homicidal ideation or intent, when the caller is not in imminent danger to themselves/others*.
• When the individual expresses normal, common grief reactions over losses experienced as a result of the disaster, e.g., loss of loved ones (including pets), property, community institutions, etc.
• When the individual or someone in their care is or may have a mental illness or other mental health concerns affected in some way by the disaster event, e.g., pre-existing symptoms may be aggravated and their access to medications or other forms of care are disrupted, etc.
• Any other symptom expressed by the individual that is or may be emotional/psychological in nature for which you feel your service cannot provide adequate support.
For what services should I not refer someone to the DDH?
The DDH is not equipped to provide:
• Disaster case management.
• Information on specific, local disaster volunteerism or donations opportunities (refer to 211).
• Financial support or assistance.
Warm transfers to the DDH 1-800-985-5990 hotline: If providing a warm transfer to the DDH, please inform the caller first while sensitively and gently educating the caller about what the DDH is, to prevent confusion and additional distress.
* Note regarding caller threats to self/others & referring to the DDH: When encountering an individual (or a third party reaching out on behalf of another) who indicates a possible imminent threat to self/others, disaster hotline call agents/operators should utilize their standard protocols for managing such crises before referring to the DDH, including involving emergency responders/911, if necessary.