In 1969, a group of community-minded volunteers – Dr. Paul Termansen, Professor Ben Chud, Archie Baker, Jon Jessiman, Tony Morrison and Betty Tarrant (who also became the first Executive Director) – saw a need in our community and believed that a listening service could help people in distress. Together, they founded the Crisis Centre so that those in pain would always have a place to turn.
With a first year budget of $30,000 and only one person on staff, the Crisis Centre was originally located in a medical-dental building at Broadway and Burrard.
The United Way quickly recognized the essential value of the Distress Line service, and the Crisis Centre became one of its member agencies.
The Crisis Centre moved to Alexandra Neighborhood House at West 7th and Burrard.
The Centre inaugurated its ‘Flying Squad,’ through which we dispatched volunteers to assist people in crisis situations, and intervene on their behalves. This was abandoned several years later as a high risk/low return operation.
Volunteers drove around the city in the ‘Big Yellow Bus’ looking for people in distress, and bringing them back to a hostel set up on the top floor of the Centre.
The Crisis Centre moved to 1946 West Broadway, first as tenants; later as owners.
The Community Information Centre was developed. This would later be spun off to become Information Services Vancouver (part of the Tri-Line operation).
Urgent Messages, our first video on teen suicide prevention was produced. This video was used widely throughout North America.
The Community Education School Based Suicide Prevention Program was developed after a Vancouver youth died by suicide and his friends turned to the Crisis Centre for help. The Community Education program provides youth with the skills to recognize and deal with emotional stress and suicide warning signs and aims to de-stigmatize suicide among youth.
Choices, our second video on teen suicide prevention, was produced. The video received the Golden Sheaf as Canada’s top Public Service Sector video (Broadcast or Non-Broadcast) of 1994 and the Gold Medal from the International Television & Video Producers Association as best non-broadcast Public Service Sector video produced anywhere in the world in 1994. Since then, Choices has reached hundreds of thousands of students around the world.
The Professional Development program was created. The program consists of a series of workshops given on a fee-for-service basis to corporations, other social service agencies and community organizations.
In October 1997, the Crisis Centre moved its distress line, community education, and administrative programs to a computerized system.
The Crisis Centre and the South Fraser Regional Crisis line were founding members of the British Columbia Crisis Line Association, and published their first newsletter, The Frontline. They began planning BCCLA’s first annual conference, which was held in October 1998.
In August 2001, a toll-free distress line service to the Sunshine Coast, Powell River and area, and the Sea-to-Sky Corridor was created.
Thanks to $100,000 raised at the 10th Anniversary Ismaili Walk, the Crisis Centre began to provide its distress services in over 140 languages through the Language Line services (a phone interpretation service).
The computer system at the Crisis Centre was upgraded, including the implementation of customized middleware for the Distress Line and a fundraising database.
A dedicated, toll-free TTY phone line for the hearing-impaired community was established.
A formal program evaluation of Choices Youth Suicide Prevention Program and video was conducted.
After a 70% drop in calls to our distress line from 13-24 year old youth between 2001 and 2003, youth focus groups told us that they prefer using computers connected to the internet as a means of communication. As a result, YouthInBC.com, a web-based hotline for youth, was implemented in 2004. It has been very successful, offering the same empathy, confidentiality and security as the phone line, but in a format that youth feel more comfortable using.
In September of 2004, the Crisis Intervention & Suicide Prevention Centre of BC partnered with Kelowna Community Resources, Mission Community Services, the Crisis Prevention, Intervention & Information Centre for Northern BC and the NEED Crisis & Information Line (Victoria) to create 1-800-SUICIDE. This province-wide distress line was inspired by the “Hope Line Network” in the US. 1-800-SUICIDE allows the 5 accredited member centres to work together in answering calls to this line, ensuring that every call from any part of BC at any time of day will always be answered by a trained volunteer.
The Crisis Centre produced the Choices2: Reaching Out video and workshop package to enhance its Community Education presentations. Choices2 replaced the old video, Choices, and includes documentary interviews along with an updated feature story and information.
YouthInBC.com was redesigned and restructured to be more youth-friendly and easier to navigate.
The Crisis Centre, in partnership with the BC government, the Crisis Line Association of British Columbia, Vancouver Police Department, West Vancouver Police Department and TELUS, installed and activated six crisis hotline phones on the Lions Gate Bridge, the first of their kind in Canada.
Donner Canadian Foundation Awards for Excellence
Over the span of the last 12 years, the Crisis Centre has been either a winner, a finalist or honourable mention by the Donner Canadian Foundation Awards for Excellence. The Donner Awards are managed by the Fraser Institute and are the largest and most prestigious non-profit recognition program in Canada. We won the awards for our Crisis Intervention Services in 2003 and 2006, Community Education Program in 2009, and are again a finalist in 2012 (winner to be announced in November 2012).
The Crisis Centre has been fully accredited since 1994, meeting the highest standard set by the American Association of Suicidology. In 2010, we received accreditation for the next five years, until 2015.
Suicide PIP Project (Prevention, Intervention and Postvention)
The Crisis Centre co-chaired the Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention Initiative for BC, which is a provincial Suicide Framework and Template. It is a key resource and planning tool to support strategic program planning for suicide prevention, intervention and postvention for BC.
Suicide Prevention Bridge Initiative
The Crisis Centre led a team to pilot a suicide prevention initiative on the Lions Gate Bridge and Second Narrow Bridges. The Suicide Prevention Bridge Initiative involved the installing of crisis phones and signage, first on the Lions Gate Bridge, in partnership with the Ministry of Transport, TELUS, Vancouver Police Department and West Vancouver Police Department; then the Second Narrows Bridges, in partnership with the same groups, and RCMP North Shore. With this initiative, we strive to work towards building suicide safer communities across the Lower Mainland.
In 2012, the Crisis Centre soft-launched CrisisCentreChat.ca, a web-based hotline for adults (25+) in distress where they can access free, confidential, non-judgmental support (noon – 1am, 7 days a week) from dedicated volunteers, supported by a small team of professional staff. CrisisCentreChat.ca offers a transition from YouthInBC.com chatters who are developing as adults and need specific resources in their community that relate to their demographic, as well as for adults who may not otherwise connect with traditional crisis intervention counselling services by phone, or in person.
Mobile Compliant Websites
In early 2014, the Crisis Centre transitioned it’s primary website along with its 2 chat websites to ensure mobile compliance. Any visitor to the Crisis Centre’s 3 main websites can easily access resources and chat services from any handheld device, a first of its kind in BC.