Armor Up WV: Crisis calls increase during COVID-19 pandemic

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NICHOLAS COUNTY, WV (WOWK) — A West Virginia non-profit aimed at getting first responders help with their mental health says its call volume has doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Armor Up West Virginia’s” mission is to help the helpers.

Charley Bickford is one of those helpers. Not only is he a co-founder of Armor Up West Virginia, he’s also a 911 supervisor for Nicholas County 911, the fire and EMS chief at Wilderness Fire Department at Mount Lookout, and the President of West Virginia APCO.

“People don’t call us cause they are having a good day, they call us because they are having the worst day of their lives,” explained Bickford.

“Normalcy is kind of on the back burner right now, we don’t know what to expect.”

Armor Up West Virginia steps in when others cannot. They work to get first responders help with things like mental health treatment, counseling, and therapy.

Vanessa Stapleton is the President of Armor Up West Virginia. She says the crisis calls have doubled since the pandemic began.

“I’ve had three already today,” Stapleton told 13 News Reporter Lily Bradley in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

Armor Up partners with Safe Call Now, a confidential 24-hour crisis referral service. They say their calls have increased by nearly 300%.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration saw a fivefold increase at its National Helpline.

“Uncertainty is all across the board and that is okay to be anxious about, but what is not okay is to hide that, what you really need to do is reach out.”

Stapleton says they have begun to work with those on the frontlines in the medical field as well.

When it comes to finding a therapist, Stapleton and Bickford say it’s crucial those with PTSD find a therapist that specializes in trauma therapy.

If you, someone you love or someone you know needs help, call:

Safe Call Now:  24 Hour Confidential Hotline for First Responders:  206-459-3020

For more information on the First Responders program:  Click here

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