Riel Tate, 3, looks out the window of her family home on Fourth Avenue North in Williams Lake where she and her parents have created some signs responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Canadian Mental Health Association has seen a big increase in number of calls to its Interior crisis line. (Photo submitted)

Call volumes increase to CMHA Interior crisis line due to COVID-19

Call numbers have increased 25 per cent and growing

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, calls to the Interior Crisis Line Network have increased by 25 per cent and are growing.

“With more community resources closing due to COVID-19, the service is expecting the increased call volume to continue,” said Heather Silvester, manager of crisis and counselling at the branch in Williams Lake, adding CMHA plans to provide ongoing information to support the general public with such things as stress reduction, active listening and self-care planning.

Silvester said people are impacted with the unknowns around COVID-19 such as the stress of being quarantined, plus the other issues in life that prompt someone to call the crisis line don’t go away when there is a global health crisis and may even become worse because of it.

“We have an extraordinary group of crisis line responders — staff and volunteers— across the region who are pulling together to answer calls, de-escalate and direct only the most critical situations to emergency rooms.”

The Interior Crisis Line Network is working to keep its people safe and healthy while answering the growing number of requests for support on both their phone line 1-888-353-CARE, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, and their chat service at interiorcrisisline.com from Thursday to Sunday 5 to 9 p.m.

Read more: Williams Lake child, adolescent psychiatrist shares ways to handle COVID-19 anxiety

“Support from the community so far has been wonderful,” said Michelle Nelmes, co-ordinator for the Kelowna site. “We’ve had people calling to see if they can help out on the lines which reflects the heart of the communities we serve.”

Crisis Line Responders complete a full screening and 40-plus hours of training and mentoring before supporting people, so though the general public can’t help out directly on the lines, there are other ways they can support the service.

One of those is in being patient if they can’t get through right away or if contacts are a bit shorter. Like other service providers, the Interior Crisis Line is being impacted by call volume and telecommunication issues as more people are online. They are asking people to be understanding.

If it’s not an emergency when they can’t get through, pause and try again. If it is an emergency, reach out directly to 911.

Anyone interested in volunteering, go to interiorcrisisline.com or call 1.250.398.8220, ext 2031 or 2032. There are five local crisis lines in the Interior region all funded by the Interior Health Authority.

Read more: Why you don’t know which B.C. city has COVID-19 cases: Interior Health explains


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