The Vernon Crisis Line is hoping to recruit up to a dozen volunteers to assist with the service.
Paula Guidi, Vernon Crisis Line program coordinator, said she currently has about 20 volunteers to draw from to man the 365-day-a-year 24/7 crisis line that serves an area across the Interior as far north as Prince George and east to the Alberta border.
Vernon is one of four regional crisis line services in B.C. operated under the auspices of the Canadian Mental Health Association, the others are based out of Kelowna, Cranbrook and the Lower Mainland.
Guidi said serving as a crisis line operator is not for everyone. Past and current volunteers tend to come from younger people studying or working in areas of mental health, social work and psychology, along with those wanting to give back to their community.
The kind of issues confronted by crisis line callers include family dysfunction, divorce and related legal issues, fleeing from a violent domestic situation, mental health and drug addiction issues and those feeling suicidal.
Guidi said crisis line volunteers are not there to offer counselling, but to serve as a referral service to direct people to where they can get help and often just to listen to someone, offering a friendly voice that in itself can lend emotional support to a distressed or frustrated caller.
Guidi, a former teacher, said the emotional drain that exercise can potentially place on volunteers is something she wondered might resonate with her.
“There can be some tricky calls but we have a supervisor to fall back on at any given time and we can refer people to 9-1-1 or talk about a call ourselves with them. I found I almost never take it home with me,” said Guidi.
“No matter how dark the conversation might be, you often go home feeling uplifted because you were able to help someone get the help or support they need.
“We have a poster on our wall that says people don’t need to be saved, people need the knowledge of their own power and how to access it. (Crisis line operators) are not here to give advice, but to help point them in the right direction where they can be better empowered to make their own informed decisions.”
She said Christmas is always a difficult time for many people, and that extends into January as the post-Christmas stress of dealing with gift shopping bills and limited sunlight can overwhelm many of us.
To reinforce that reality, Blue Monday is a name given to the third Monday in January (tomorrow) as the most depressing day of the year. That started as a marketing gimmick by a British travel agency, but has since been adopted by CMHA in recognition of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression related to the change in seasons.
Crisis line volunteers must be at least 19 years of age, be willing to make a time commitment to volunteer for four-hour shifts for a year and complete the training regiment.
The next training course is a 40-hour program that starts Feb. 17 over five sessions that wrap up March 7.
For more information, phone 250-542-3114 (ext. 232), online at www.vernon.cmha.bc.ca or email email@example.com.