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Coronavirus: Okanagan mental health branch reports increase in crisis-line calls during pandemic

The Vernon branch of the Canadian Mental Health Assocation said during the last two weeks of March, 25 per cent of all calls were directly related to COVID-19.
The Vernon branch of the Canadian Mental Health Assocation said during the last two weeks of March, 25 per cent of all calls were directly related to COVID-19. CMHA Vernon and District branch

A crisis line in B.C.’s Southern Interior says there’s been a substantial increase in calls during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, calls to the Vernon branch of the Interior Crisis Line Network saw a 20-per cent jump in the week after the World Health Organization declared the pandemic on March 11.

The branch also said during the last two weeks of March, 25 per cent of all calls were directly related to COVID-19.

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“It is reassuring that people are reaching out to us,” said Julia Payson, executive director for the Vernon branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

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“It shows our efforts at fighting mental health stigma are working as people feel more comfortable reaching out to talk about their mental health.  It also shows the immense need for mental health support in our community.”

The CMHA expects calls to increase, adding it began tracking COVID-19-related calls starting March 18.

“Social distancing has taken its toll on many, and we will be here for our community through this difficult time,” said Payson.

“In addition to the stress of the current health crisis, people’s normal coping mechanisms have been interrupted. It is critical right now that we continue to connect with each other, even while maintaining physical distance. We can be apart together.”

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The branch says it has responded to increased calls during the past three years, and that it answered more than 7,600 calls between April 2019 and March 2020.

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The crisis line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The branch said as a network, all five sites of the Interior Crisis Line Network answered 23,291 calls during the 2019-20 fiscal year.

“We want our community members to know they are not alone,” said Payson. “Our crisis line team is amazingly dedicated, continuing to show up shift after shift and keeping positive in the midst of this global pandemic.”

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The crisis line can be accessed by calling 1-888-353-CARE (2273) or by chatting online Thursday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., through the chat link at interiorcrisisline.com.

For more about CMHA Vernon and COVID-19, click here.