Phone calls to the Vernon site of the Interior Crisis Line Netword have increased substantially since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Calls jumped 20 per cent after the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization and, over the last two weeks of March, 25 per cent of calls were directly related to COVID-19.
“It is reassuring that people are reaching out to us,” said Julia Payson, executive director for Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Vernon and District Branch. “It shows our efforts at fighting mental health stigma are working as people feel more comfortable reaching out to talk about their mental health. It also shows the immense need for mental health support in our community.”
With the COVID-19 crisis, CMHA expects calls to increase further.
On March 18, the Vernon Crisis Line began tracking COVID-related calls, and now receives calls every day from community members needing emotional support, and information and resources associated with concerns about the virus.
“Social distancing has taken its toll on many, and we will be here for our community through this difficult time,” said Payson. “In addition to the stress of the current health crisis, people’s normal coping mechanisms have been interrupted. It’s critical right now that we continue to connect with each other, even while maintaining physical distance. We can be apart together.”
The Vernon Crisis Line has responded to increased calls over the past three years, and between April 2019 and March 2020, answered more than 7,600 calls.
The Crisis Line continues to operate 24/7 with professionally trained, compassionate volunteers and supportive staff. The most recent training was completed using virtual meetings to maintain physical distance while ensuring there were more people available to answer calls.
“We want our community members to know they are not alone. Our Crisis Line team is amazingly dedicated, continuing to show up shift after shift and keeping positive in the midst of this global pandemic,” said Payson.
“Just six weeks ago we had an opportunity to honour one of our Crisis Line volunteers who has been with us for five years. He has taken more than 1,000 calls and volunteered more than 1,300 hours of his time to helping others in the community with their mental health concerns.”
As a network, all five sites of the Interior Crisis Line Network answered 23,291 calls in the 2019/2020 fiscal year.
The Crisis Line is not only for those in crisis, and responders are ready and able to answer anyone who needs additional mental health support. The line can be accessed 24/7 by calling 1-888-353-CARE (2273) or by chatting online Thursday-Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. through the chat link at http://www.interiorcrisisline.com/.
The next Crisis Line training session takes place online July 13 to 17. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to apply or visit https://cmhavernon.ca/programs-and-services/crisis-line/crisis-line-volunteer-application/.
CMHA Vernon has set up a webpage noting changes to its services along with resources and tips for mental health and wellness at www.cmhavernon.ca/COVID-19-help/.