Crisis Line is faced with a growing demand

Volunteers are needed for the training session that is starting on Friday, April 26

An ever-expanding number of callers is reaching out to Vernon’s PIN Crisis Line for support.

Last year, PIN’s mandate was expanded to include answering calls from throughout the Interior Health Authority region. This means Vernon’s volunteers now answer calls from Kamloops, Penticton, Cranbrook, Williams Lake, and everywhere in between. The services provided to these areas by volunteers has also grown; in addition to answering a traditional Crisis Line, 1-888-353-2273, volunteers are also now answering the provincial 1-800-SUICIDE and 310Mental Health Information Line, (310-6789).

As a result of these changes, Vernon’s Crisis Line wrkers now answer an average of 600 calls a month. This growth has resulted in a 50 per cent increase in call volume.

Part of this is due to the Crisis Line’s new call routing technology. Whereas callers used to get a message to try again later when the Vernon line was busy, callers are now forwarded to another Crisis Line within the Interior. Likewise, when callers are unable to reach their local crisis lines in other areas, their calls can end up routed to Vernon. As a whole, calls to the Interior Crisis Line Network have an answer rate of 93 per cent, and the Interior Crisis Line expects to improve these numbers further as it continues to refine the integration of its services.

While the core service of active listening and emotional support assists callers to come up with solutions to their situation, Crisis Line volunteers help one of every six callers to connect with additional support from local agencies. The most prevalent of these is Mental Health and Addictions Emergency Services, which provided professional support for more than 70 crisis line calls from the North Okanagan last month.

The scope and depth of the crisis calls is unpredictable, but the volunteers apply the same fundamental skills they learned in training to every call: developing a connection with callers, assessing callers’ situation, and working with them to help them identify healthy solutions to their problems. Of additional benefit, volunteers learn to practise these skills with an open, nonjudgmental, compassionate attitude regardless of caller’s circumstances.

This training takes place in two stages, with the first 18 hours being conducted in a classroom setting, and the other 20 hours in a small group, one-on-one environment. This time includes comprehensive practice and review of procedures and policy before volunteers begin answering calls.

The next Crisis Line volunteer training group starts Friday, with additional training every three months. If interested, you can call the Crisis Line’s program office at 250-545-8074, e-mail Crisisline_vc@shaw.ca, or apply online at www.peopleinneed.ca for more information.