Crisis responders don’t have answers. We do have hope. At our core, we know that every person has the strength and courage to get through any challenge, and we are going to be alongside you through the worst moments.
The following appeared in the September 10, 2020 edition of The Province in print and digital circulation.
Who do you talk to when you need to get outside your bubble? As we continue to take care of each other from a distance, living through a pandemic is having an impact on our mental health. When what we are experiencing gets bigger than our coping skills, it’s common to have thoughts of suicide – and suicide can be very difficult to talk about.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, and my key message for all British Columbians is crisis centres across this Province are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you need to talk, we are here. If you are worried about someone, we want to help.
When British Columbians were first asked to flatten the COVID-19 curve, the race to protect ourselves and our communities felt like a sprint. At the Crisis Centre of BC, we brought more crisis responders on our lines, moved our training and education online, and braced ourselves for an increase in calls. By April through June, we were taking 25% more calls than our pre-pandemic numbers.
I’m very glad we expanded. Every call is a person having their own pandemic crisis. Every crisis is a choice moment, where reaching out for help is the best possible choice.
As we moved into the summer, and now the fall, the race turned into a marathon. Endurance became more important than speed. We continued to take more calls than usual, but the tone of the calls changed – less panic, more exhaustion. Every day we speak to people who aren’t sure how to adjust to a very different world.
Crisis responders don’t have answers. We do have hope. At our core, we know that every person has the strength and courage to get through any challenge, and we are going to be alongside you through the worst moments. We hold that hope because we have heard so many worst moments, and then heard how people got through them and built lives worth living.
The work of crisis centres is helping people avoid terrible decisions in their worst moments. When you call or text a crisis responder, it’s like taking a deep breath, corralling your racing thoughts, and talking to someone who cares deeply about what you have to say. When we give people space to talk, we give their thinking brain time to catch up to their emotional state – creating moments when you can save a life just by listening.
We offer both phone and chat services, and this year we got curious about which kind of service people preferred in a crisis situation. We found out a full 65% of people surveyed preferred using the phone. In an era where texting is everywhere, talking is special. People told us talking is quicker and easier than texting, the response time is faster, you know you are talking to a real person, and you are confident you have the person’s full attention.
Whether a phone call or a chat is your comfort zone, the key to suicide prevention is opening up about suicidal thoughts and feelings. Callers tell us again and again the worst thing about suicidal feelings is how alone and disconnected they felt – until they reached out to us and connected.
If you or someone you know needs help, reach out by phone at 1-800-SUICIDE from anywhere in BC. In the Vancouver area, call the regional distress line at 604-872-3311. On the Sunshine Coast or the Sea-to-Sky Corridor call 1-866-661-3311 to reach the Crisis Centre toll-free. Chat service is available Noon to 1AM at YouthInBC.com and CrisisCentreChat.ca.
To learn more about supporting our work, head to www.crisiscentre.bc.ca.