AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – 988. A three-digit number, that can help save lives.

Starting Saturday, 988 will link callers directly to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, so when someone calls the Lifeline it will connect them to someone you can address their immediate needs.

“After dialing or texting 988, the individual is connected to a trained mental health professional which will provide immediate care and then link to a mobile crisis outreach team member if needed to provide an additional assessment,” said the Service Director of Children Behavioral Programs and Suicide Coordinator Agent with Texas Panhandle Centers Stacy Sandorskey.

Chairperson of the Texas Panhandle Suicide Prevention Coalition, MacKenzie Ellis, said the introduction of the three-digit number was to make it easier for someone in crisis.

She added this can also help destigmatize mental health.

“We grow up knowing 911 is what you call for an emergency, even little kids know that and so hopefully this makes things very similar making people feel comfortable calling it in regards to a mental health crisis,” said Ellis.

Sandorskey said they typically see around 1,800 calls annually and they do anticipate that number to increase.

“So having an increase in calls, I guess someone could look at as either side, but to me, it’s a good thing, because that means people are calling us when they need to and we can get resources to them as far as linking them to resources, and getting them into services where ever that is in the community and hopefully prevent anything from happening,” said Sandorskey.

Ellis added that Randall and Potter County’s suicide rate is substantial.

“We are extremely impacted by suicide loss, in fact, the Potter and Randall County area is actually three or four times higher than the national statistics when it comes to suicide losses per year,” said Ellis.

Ellis said suicide is the second leading cause of death of young people ages 10 to 34.

It should be noted that 988 will not replace the current Lifeline number, 1-800-273-8255, but rather it will expand access to those crisis call centers. Those experiencing a mental health or suicide-related crisis can continue to reach the Lifeline at its current number along with 988.