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 Montessori students re-gift to raise funds

Holiday Gift Shop fundraiser supports Project Christmas Elf, teaches sustainability

Sagmoen’s lawyer argues ‘abuse of power’ in police search

The trial of Curtis Sagmoen continued at the Vernon Law Courts on Friday

Vernon’s All Saints Church sets table for less fortunate

Fifth annual Festive Street Lunch will take place at All Saints’ Church tomorrow

Plug pulled on Vernon Light Up

Downtown Vernon Association announces it will no longer co-ordinate the annual event

Campaign to collect backpacks for Vernon’s less fortunate extended

Upper Room Mission has extended its Blessings in a Backpack campaign to Dec. 20

VIDEO: More air-passenger rights go into effect this weekend

The first set of passenger rights arrived in mid-July in Canada

Best in business: North-Okanagan Shuswap companies named top 10 semi-finalists

Small businesses from Vernon, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Salmon Arm to compete for top spot

Swoop airlines adds three destinations in 2020 – Victoria, Kamloops, San Diego

Low-fair subsidiary of WestJet Airlines brings new destinations in April 2020

Aid a priority for idled Vancouver Island loggers, John Horgan says

Steelworkers, Western Forest Products returning to mediation

Navigating ‘fever phobia’: B.C. doctor gives tips on when a sick kid should get to the ER

Any temperature above 38 C is considered a fever, but not all cases warrant a trip to the hospital

Vernon’s All Saints’ Chruch hosts Lessons and Carols

Sing and learn and enjoy refreshments this Saturday

MITCHELL’S MUSINGS: Three amigos take on Trump

Boris Johnson, Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron talk U.S. president at NATO meeting

Penticton resident allegedly has rear car tires stolen

The resident woke up today to find their back tires missing and their car on blocks

Woman struck, dog killed after collision on Highway 97

Speed is not believed to be a factor and alcohol has been ruled out

Most Read