(WTRF) – In the last year, mental health services across the country were made more readily available by changing the lifeline phone number to just three digits. 

988 is much easier to remember. 

In West Virginia, it’s being accessed even more. 

Contacts; that’s calls, texts and chats, have more than doubled in West Virginia. 

While that number may be high, it’s encouraging to the lifeline that more people are using the services it provides. 

“We just want people to understand that we’re there for them and they’re not alone in these moments.” 

Trinity Pierce, Crisis Counselor

Anytime you struggle with mental health a real person who will listen is only three digits away. 

If you are in crisis right now call 988 or visit WV988.org to chat online.

“It’s called the suicide and crisis line, but you might just be anxious or depressed and need someone to talk to.”

Sheila Moran, Director of Communications & Marketing, First Choice Services

It doesn’t have to be in your most vulnerable. 

You can just need someone to talk to or an impartial person to listen.

 “People feel really unheard and if you can take the time to make a connection and empathize with them and really let them let those feelings out they feel so much better.”

Trinity Pierce, Crisis Counselor

In the Mountain State, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is particularly vital. 

Counselors say the majority of callers are struggling with a feeling of hopelessness and heavy thoughts. 

The three-digit number makes it more easier to access, which means more people are calling in to get help.

“In West Virginia we have one of the highest rates of anxiety and depression in the whole country, so there has been an increased need, but I really think access. Again, 400 of our 1500 contacts were chat and text.”

Sheila Moran, Director of Communications & Marketing, First Choice Services

When you call at any time day or night, or for any reason, you’ll be talking to a real person who can listen and provide the support that you need. 

“Even people who think that they have a really healthy support system sometimes feel like they’re placing a burden on their loved ones by telling them these thoughts and feelings.”

Trinity Pierce, Crisis Counselor

Crisis counselors follow up in the days, weeks and even months after contact to make sure the people who reach out continue to stay safe. 

Pierce said they provide a variety of services during those calls including a safety plan to cope with future feelings and resources that are specific to each individual’s situation.

Mental Health Month in May and the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline hosts other events throughout the year that spark these difficult conversations about mental health, but they say it’s not enough.

There are still people who are hesitant to come forward. 

“If you were walking about with a broken leg, crutches would be acceptable for you. For some of the mental health issues that we’re having, because it’s not so obvious on the surface, it’s easy to discount and say that it’s not real. I want people to really pause and accept that these mental issues and illnesses that people are experiencing are just as real as a broken leg can be.”

Trinity Pierce, Crisis Counselor

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is also for third parties who might be reaching out to help someone they love. 

Indicators of a mental health crisis include poor sleep habits, pulling away from people and things, low energy, feeling helpless or hopeless, excessive drinking or drug use, worrying, feeling guilty but not sure why, thinking of hurting yourself or someone else and having difficulty adjusting to work and home life.

You can call 988 anytime or visit WV988.org to chat online.

All contacts can remain anonymous.