BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – It’s been years in the making, Americans can now dial 988 during a mental health crisis, akin to 9-1-1 for medical or law enforcement emergencies. Days after its launch, those who answer calls locally are seeing an increase in people reaching out for help.

Ellen Eggert supervises the local crisis hotline and knows too well what callers to the Kern Crisis Hotline feel when they decide to dial for help.

“You are not alone,” Eggert said. “That is what we want people to know, someone is going to answer that call and they are not going to judge you.”

The hotline went live on Saturday to improve access to psychiatric care. Individuals can call or text 988 to speak with trained counselors who listen and understand what is affecting them and provide support and resources.

“We got a call once,” Eggert said. “He was on top of a high building, he was a student, he was at the end of the road for his life, he had no hope, he didn’t have anything to live for.”

The Kern Crisis Hotline can now easily be reached by dialing the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The number will connect you to resources far outside of the mental health realm.

“You don’t have to have a mental illness to call the crisis line, anyone can call us,” Eggert said.

It’s a national network of more than 200 crisis centers that helps thousands of people overcome crisis situations every day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, with one death every 11 minutes.

Stacy Kuwahara, Director of Kern County Behavioral Health Services hopes this will help easily connect communities in our area, especially those in rural areas, with the mental healthcare and resources that they need.

“If I go into a mental health crisis,” Kuwahara said. “I don’t have to go online and google what my local crisis hotline is, 988 is going to be an accessible easy thing for people to remember and utilize.”

The original lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, remains active. When you dial it will connect you to the local crisis hotline.