SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s been one year since the rollout of the mental-health-focused 988 helpline in New Mexico. Data shows that thousands of people are using the service.

Last year, the 988 nationwide helpline was remodeled and expanded to provide better mental health help. By dialing 988, people can connect to trained crisis counselors for help with suicidal thoughts, substance use, mental health crises, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also call if they’re worried about the well-being of someone else.

“We understand people don’t always self-identify being in a crisis, but they often sense when they need help,” Kari Armijo, acting cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Human Services Department, said in a press release. “We don’t want anyone to ask themselves, ‘Is this serious?’ If you or someone you know are having a bad day, call, text, or chat 988 and talk about it. Nine-eight-eight is available to help you.”

From the rollout a year ago to May of 2023, the helpline took more than 21,000 calls, texts, and chats, according to the Human Services Department. They estimate those connections may have aided in saving the lives of over 4,700 New Mexicans who needed help.

The Human Services Department also says help is being given faster. Response times went from an average of just over one minute to an average of 26 seconds, which is about 10 seconds faster than the national average, they say.

The helpline was recently expanded to offer connections to LGBTQIA+-affirming behavioral health professionals. All help at 988 is free, confidential, and available at any time on any day of the week.