Local Call Center for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Returns to West Virginia

It had been about 6 months since West Virginia had its own call center for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline which is 1-800-273-TALK (8255), but since February 14th of this year a caller to that hotline will find themselves speaking to a real fellow West Virginian. Of course, our listeners who live in Virginia who call that same National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number will have their calls routed to a call center located in Virginia.

Andria St. Clair; the Program Director for the Charleston based WV Suicide Prevention Lifeline which is operated by First Choice Services in partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the WV Department of Health and Human Services explains.

“The National Suicide Prevention hotline has about 160 call centers throughout the United States” said Andrea. “If someone calls the 1-800-273-TALK, they will be routed to a call center based on the area code that they are calling from. It’s actually been interesting taking these calls because it seems like the callers can actually tell the difference in the fact that they are being answered locally instead of going to a call center in another state. They can definitely tell the difference now that the calls are coming back into West Virginia.”

Andria also explains that you don’t have to feel suicidal to call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They will talk with you about other less urgent issues or concerns you may have.

What happens if somebody does feel suicidal and they call?

“We are very understanding” replied Andrea. “We make it very conversational. A lot of the call agents who are answering the phones have either been personally affected by a suicide loss in their family, or they have a friend or family member who is struggling with mental illness or substance use related issues. And we just listen to their story and are very empathetic with what they are going through. We try to be understanding and let them know that they’re heard and that we are non-judgmental and we’re going to try and help them the best way we know how. All the agents have been trained in applied suicide intervention skills training, so they know how to identify if somebody’s at risk, and what level of risk they’re at. Based on what level of crisis they are at, we connect them with the appropriate resources.”

Andrea assures us there is no cost to the caller for this hotline service.

Just how big the suicide problem is in West Virginia?

“Last year we lost about 340 West Virginians to suicide” replied Andrea. “To me the statistics are not as relevant because one life lost to suicide is one too many.”

Andrea says she has personally suffered a loss due to suicide.

In what could be the most important part of this story, Andrea gives us some of the warning signs of a potential suicide.

“There are definite warning signs to help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide” Andrea says. “If they are having a behavior that isn’t normal for them, or it’s increased or it seems related to a painful event, or a loss or a change in their life; or talking about wanting to die or kill themselves; looking for ways to kill themselves like searching on-line or buying a gun; having feelings of hopelessness or not seeing any reason to live; they are feeling trapped; they’re in an unbearable pain; they think they are a burden to others; they’re having increased use of alcohol or substances; acting anxious or agitated and behaving recklessly; being withdrawn or isolating and extreme mood swings. So any of those could be an indicator that something is going on that could maybe indicate that you need to seek help.”

Andrea also says that sometimes the potentially suicidal person can become self aware of these things in themselves and reach out to somebody for help.

In conclusion, Andrea added the following.

“Suicide is preventable as long as we work together to help identify the risk factors and the warning signs” said Andrea. “Just becoming more educated and being able to identify those that are in a crisis can help significantly.”

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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