Vernon crisis line calling for more volunteers

“We like to say that, we don’t just save lives, we change them”

When Alyssa Christmas hangs up the phone after a call has come in to the Vernon Crisis Line she’s usually left feeling “pretty good.”

“I know I was there when someone needed me to be,” she explained.

“We like to say that, we don’t just save lives, we change them.”

And while she can never be completely sure if her words have helped, Christmas focuses less on what could go wrong and more on offering “a kind, listening ear” when it’s needed most.

One resident, who requested anonymity, said sometimes, that’s all it takes.

“If it weren’t for the Crisis Line being there to take my call at 2 a.m., I wouldn’t be here,”the one-time caller said.

Christmas said she maintains perspective by practicing “self-care” and not “taking her work home” with her — both of which are encouraged among the volunteers who staff the three CMHA operated distress lines, (1-888-353-CARE), Mental Health Support Line, and 1-800-SUICIDE.

The calls can be emotionally demanding, but Christmas, who is also program support manager for the Canadian Mental Health Association Vernon’s Crisis Line and Good Morning program, says it leaves you feeling as though you’ve made a difference.

That’s why she’s hoping a few “big-hearted” people will come forward and answer her call — the one for volunteers.

Currently, Christmas said the organization has 25 active volunteers to cover 144 hours per week.

“We have more people calling and less people to take the calls,” she said. “I’m hoping for about 10 new volunteers in our May training.”

In 2017, the crisis line answered 5,708 calls — up from 5,210 calls in 2016. Christmas attributes the increase in calls to better advertising of the Crisis Line and a general shift in attitude about mental health.

“I would like to think there is less stigma around mental health now, and that people are feeling more comfortable reaching out if they need to,” she said.

She says change of season typically leads to a spike in calls, but that is “pretty consistent.”

“We usually see more calls around Christmas, when people might be feeling more stress or are maybe having a difficult time. We also see more calls in early January when the days are shorter — but we have a steady baseline throughout the year.”

Christmas says people call for a variety of reasons — callers aren’t always suicidal or beset by “unfixable crises.”

Emotional support, crisis intervention, depression, isolation, addiction concerns, family and relationship issues, grief, health concerns, abuse, mental health, sexuality, legal, financial, food and shelter, emergency services, youth and seniors issues, she said, are just a few of those concerns that prompt people to seek out the crisis line.

“We also have people call that are concerned for a friend, family member or coworker.”

One in three calls, she said, are people reaching out for support to self-manage their mental health concerns rather than escalating and requiring more “intrusive interventions.”

“Our volunteers effectively support people so less than six per cent of our calls require intervention,” she added.

However, when a person needs or desires professional help Christmas said volunteers are knowledgeable on appropriate services and agencies.

Volunteers undergo training in two stages— a classroom setting, and in a one-on-one environment, which includes comprehensive practice and review of procedures and policy before volunteers begin answering calls. They are also given an opportunity to observe volunteers taking calls. Christmas said support is also always available when they’re taking calls.

Anyone interested in volunteering must be over 18 and is asked to fill out an application online at http://www.peopleinneed.ca/volunteering/

The next training dates are May 7, 10, 14, 17 and 24 from 4 – 8 p.m. and May 26 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. A second training session will be offered in October.

Erin Christie

Morning Star Staff


@VernonNews
erin.christie@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Vernon CMHA celebrates therapeutic power of art

The 16th annual Awakening the Spirit Art Show and Sale runs until July 23

PHOTOS: Splatsin canoe family completes eight-day journey

Splatsin youth, workers were Paddling Together from Powell River to Gibsons Beach

Quality Greens purchase points keep food on the table

New partnership between Quality Greens, Upper Room Mission is helping those in need

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: mix of sun and cloud, chance of showers

Environment Canada is calling for a sunny weekend across the Okanagan

North Okanagan seeks provincial approval of bag ban

RDNO timeline to have ban in effect by 2020 may no longer be possible

When walls talk: Vernon murals see generation II

“This new movement, an app, will bring the strength of some of those same Vernon visionaries together again into a newdigital form”

Battle of blacksmiths returns to Okanagan vineyard

A battle of blacksmiths is returning for its second year in Lake Country

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

Health: Living longer, a myth?

A new column to Black Press from CHIP HealthLine Solutions

Memorial plaques stolen from Okanagan cemetery

Four plaques were stolen from Lakeview Memorial Gardens in Kelowna

Sustainable farming summit coming to the Okanagan

Kelowna will soon host a summit on how the food industry can reduce its climate impact

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

UBC Okanagan professor details wildfire risks

Associate professor David Scott provides details for the Okanagan’s wildfire season

B.C. man pleads guilty in snake venom death of toddler

Plea comes more than five years after the incident in North Vancouver

Most Read