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Pandemic taking a mental toll? Call West Virginia’s free emotional strength line

West Virginia Headlines

(WTRF) – If the months of uncertainty, fear, isolation and cancellations are starting to wear on you, you’re not alone. 

Studies show the pandemic has taken a toll on our mental health, so usually we turn to loved ones. If you need someone to talk to, and don’t have anyone to call, still pick up the phone and dial West Virginia’s Emotional Strength Line. 

If you need support, just call 1-877-HELP-304 or you can chat online at

First Choice Services, which operates “Help 304” said a CDC study several years ago ranked the Mountain State as one of the least mentally healthy, and that’s just something else made worse by COVID. 

When you dial the line a counselor will be there who can help.

It usually starts out with ‘this is the first time I’ve ever done this, what do I do?’.

Kenzie Leffingwell, Crisis Counselor

The first thing you’ll do is just talk to a counselor who’s ready to listen. 

For a physical ailment you would go to the emergency room and you would get immediate care for whatever is bothering you the most at that time, but you may have some other underlying issues going on that and they always tell you follow up with your primary care physician, and we do the same thing.

Kenzie Leffingwell, Crisis Counselor

West Virginia’s Emotional Strength Line was established last summer with support from FEMA and the state DHHR. They recognize that the devastation of the pandemic caused an emotional crisis. 

If your house burns down, you’re not ok as soon as the fire is put out. So, I think there are a lot of people living with trauma issues. A lot of people this is the first time ever they’ve dealt with not knowing how they’re going to take care of their families. A lot of people who’ve lost their jobs. A lot of people who’ve lost loved ones, had sick loved ones.

Sheila Moran, Director of Marking & Communication, First Choice Services

Counselors saw a record number of calls in March with about 200 coming in. They continue to answer the phones, talking to West Virginians who are anxious or depressed.

People are in the middle of a panic attack and they say ‘I just need someone to talk me through this’.

Sheila Moran, Director of Marking & Communication, First Choice Services

Moran said “Help 304” also receives a lot of calls from teens who unexpectedly had their lives shut down, as well as the elderly who are isolated and scared. There are also a lot of callers trying to navigate the void of loss.

We’re also seeing a lot of people who are losing loved ones to because of COVID or because of these things going on. We’re seeing a huge increase in people who feel suicidal.

Kenzie Leffingwell, Crisis Counselor

Counselors will listen as long as you need and everything you say remains anonymous. Calling the line is free, and if you need extra help, they’ll give you somewhere to go. 

A lot of people call and think we’re going to have some profound thing to tell them and there have definitely been times when I’ve told someone something and they say ‘wow I’ve never thought of that’, but usually what I hear at the end of the call is ‘thank you for listening’.

Kenzie Leffingwell, Crisis Counselor

The “Help 304” emotional strength line is available 24/7.

Just call 1-877-HELP-304 or you can chat online at

They also offer a free stress management group once a week. It is also anonymous and touches on a wide range of topics. Call the emotional strength line number for log in information.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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