AbstractThis paper investigates a crucial aspect of mental health by exploring the detection of suicidal ideation in spoken phone conversations between callers and counselors at a suicide prevention hotline. These conversations can be lengthy, noisy, and cover a broad range of topics, making it challenging for NLP models to accurately identify the caller’s suicidal ideation. To address these difficulties, we introduce a novel, self-adaptive approach that identifies the most critical utterances that the NLP model can more easily distinguish. The experiments use real-world Lifeline transcriptions, expertly labeled, and show that our approach outperforms the baseline models in overall performance with an F-score of 66.01%. In detecting the most dangerous cases, our approach achieves a significantly higher F-score of 65.94% compared to the baseline models, an improvement of 8.9%. The selected utterances can also provide valuable insights for suicide prevention research. Furthermore, our approach demonstrates its versatility by showing its effectiveness in sentiment analysis, making it a valuable tool for NLP applications beyond the healthcare domain.