988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline sees surge of texts and chat messages

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline sees surge of texts and chat messages
Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 1:35 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - There’s been a surge of people using the 988 Suicide Help Line nationally and in West Virginia. First Choice Services in Charleston fields calls in our area, and they say the surge hasn’t just been over the phone.

“Since the suicide hotline switched there was much more of an emphasis on reaching out via chat and text, so we have seen a really big uptake in those numbers,” said Sheila Moran with First Choice Services.

The text-chat feature appeals more to a young demographic, and some have found it easier than calling on the phone.

“A lot more people are taking advantage of these services, so we’re really happy to see that, especially young people are a lot more comfortable reaching out on chat and text,” Moran said.

Mental health experts say it’s common to see more people reaching out for help around the start of a new year.

“I think a lot of times with the new year, people make new promises to themselves,” said Moran. “Maybe they’re thinking about taking care of themselves in better ways. Maybe they’ve talked to friends or family during the holiday that have encouraged them to reach out for help.”

Within the last few months West Virginia has expanded their teams of mental health professionals to field the calls and texts more efficiently.

“Once they see they’re chatting with a real person who’s not judging them, someone who’s helpful, they may decide they want to call and talk as well,” Moran said.

You can text or call if you’re struggling with anxiety, depression or just need someone to listen.

If you or someone you know needs help, they can text or call 988, or chat online.

Long-term funding for the 988 Helpline is in jeopardy in some states, which have yet to figure out a permanent funding plan.

West Virginia has partial 988 implementation legislation enacted.

Kentucky considered it, but didn’t pass it.

Ohio hasn’t considered it at all.