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Posted: March 26, 2021

Regional crisis line responders celebrated

In 2020, Crisis Line Responders across the Interior Region provided close to 450,000 minutes of empowering support, skilled assessment and crisis de-escalation. A record since the service began in 2012.

“CMHA Kootenays is a committed partner of the Interior Crisis Line Network and views the crisis line service as an integral way we care for our community. We are very proud of how our crisis line staff and volunteers have come together during Covid,” shared Carey Fraser, Executive Director of CMHA Kootenays.

The Cranbrook branch is one of five partner agencies that work in an innovative and collaborative network to answer crisis calls across the region through the Interior Crisis Line Network (ICLN). Other partner agencies who make up the Interior Crisis Line Network include CMHA Cariboo Chilcotin, CMHA Vernon, Kelowna Community Resources, and Trail F.A.I.R. Society.

The jump in minutes of support provided reflects a 47% increase over 2019. The increase speaks to the need for people to feel connected and to reach out to self-manage mental health concerns and challenges ranging from simply feeling overwhelmed with the unknown to high-risk situations including harm towards themselves or others.

“An unexpected positive arising from the situation is the incredible calibre of people coming forward to volunteer as Crisis Line Responders” explained Natalie Hake, manager of the Cranbrook ICLN site.

The ICLN provides 24/7 phone-based support on four services including the regional crisis line, the provincial mental health line, the provincial suicide line and the national suicide prevention service. In addition, people can reach out via chat Thursday to Sunday 5-9 p.m. PT.  Given the scope of service provided, Crisis Line Responder training is approximately 70+ hours including online self-study, live training sessions, group observations and 1:1 mentoring to ensure people are fully vetted and supported to respond to crisis situations.

“We are so fortunate in Cranbrook for the crisis line team we have which is only growing,” shared Natalie. “In 2020, more volunteers came forward than ever before and we are hopeful this trend will continue as call volume and intensity continues to increase.”

Volunteers are skilled and caring people from the community willing to dedicate 4 hours a week to answer the call and work collaboratively with people who are struggling in that moment.

Celebrating the impact of Crisis Line Responders during Crisis Line Awareness Week is an opportunity to thank them for ‘answering the call’ and providing close to 30,000 supportive contacts in 2020.

Crisis Line Responders are trained to work through an evidence-based crisis de-escalation model resulting in 98% of calls not requiring intervention. Crisis Line Responders effectively de-escalate situations and engage ‘right response’ guiding people to the least invasive/most appropriate intervention when needed.

Working collaboratively within the model resulted in saving 6,276 interventions to 911 and Mental Health Emergency Services and close to 9,000 additional Mental Health Worker visits in 2020. Developing collaborative safe plans that engage internal, personal, community-based and clinical supports have been critical in supporting people in self-managing their wellness during this time.

“Please tell your Crisis Line Responder they literally saved my life last night” was a voicemail left earlier this year on the administrative line. “That message was really impactful for our people,” shared Melanie Spring, support staff with the Cranbrook ICLN site. “Our people know they are making a difference whether it’s providing the most appropriate resource or supporting them in ‘getting through another day,’ but to receive an unexpected thank you when they are working so hard meant a lot.”

As the identity of Crisis Line Responders is confidential, Crisis Line Awareness Week offers a unique opportunity to say thank you on a larger scale for the important work they do, both as staff and volunteers.

During Covid, the Interior Crisis Line Network not only answered record number of calls, they transitioned to a state-of-the-art routing technology, joined the national suicide prevention service and shifted to online training. All while navigating Covid regulations with a commitment to the health and safety of their people and those reaching out for support.

“Crisis Line Responders and their managers across the region are an extraordinary community of committed and caring individuals who are truly making a difference. The Cranbrook team is an important contributor to our collective success and their commitment to making crisis line service accessible to their community and the Region has been inspiring,” praised Asha Croggon, Director of the Interior Crisis Line Network.

Often described as the invisible safety net that stretches under every community, Crisis Line Awareness Week (beginning March 22, 2021) is an opportunity to make this important service more visible. And thank Crisis Line Responders for who they are and how they’ve cared during these challenging times.

Interior Crisis Line Network can be reached by phone at 1-888-353-2273 (CARE), 24/7/365 or by chat at interiorcrisisline.com (Thursday to Sunday 5-9 p.m. PT). It is a network made up of the five local crisis lines in the Interior Region and is funded by the Interior Health Authority. Interested in volunteering, go to interiorcrisisline.com or call 1-250-426-5222, ext 3063.

Photo submitted

Interior Crisis Line Network

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