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Vancouver Island Crisis Society offers responder training remotely amid uptick in need

The support is the same – just delivered differently, says society executive director
Elizabeth Newcombe, executive director of Vancouver Island Crisis Society. (Submitted to Black Press Media)

By Alexandra Mehl

Vancouver Island Crisis Society, a non-profit organization offering crisis intervention and suicide prevention services, has made many adjustments since the pandemic – including offering their crisis line responder training online.

With this transition they hope to gather a volunteer network across Vancouver Island. Volunteers can work shifts remotely or on-site in Nanaimo.

Executive director Elizabeth Newcombe says shifting their training to an online format provides an opportunity to expand as an organization.

“The content is the same,” Newcombe said. “It’s how it’s being delivered.”

Vancouver Island Crisis Society provides a 24-hour crisis line, as well as a crisis online chat and text options from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The society provides short-term support, crisis intervention, information and resources.

It also provides training in schools, suicide bereavement support and workshops.

Newcombe says the skills gained in their training are foundational, professional and personal — skills that serve mental health and substance abuse awareness, communication development and boundary setting. Volunteers also will have 24-hour support for when they are working remotely.

“We’re here to listen and support so no one feels alone,” Newcombe said.

“Life’s a roller coaster ride. We have times where we’re happy; sometimes we’re sad. It’s nice to be able to share our emotions when we’re needing someone to hear us, with someone where it’s safe. And that’s what the Crisis Line provides for people.”

Canada sees approximately 4,000 suicides each year, or roughly 11 per day, with suicide rates among men three times higher than women.

Vancouver Island Crisis Society has more than 40,000 interactions per year with people, which translates to about 110 per day.

“We believe that the service users calling us have their answers. We’re not in their shoes, but they may not be aware of what resources are out there to support them,” Newcombe said.

People reach out for crisis-based help for mental health and substance use disorder, suicide, information and resources, individual and family life, physical health, basic needs and homelessness and abuse and family violence.

Mental health and substance use struggles make up 45 per cent of calls.

Vancouver Island Crisis Society also manages follow-up calls for high-risk callers, as well as suicide assessments and third-party call outs for those concerned about an individual.

“Ninety-eight per cent of our calls are de-escalated without an intervention. A lot of the time what we do is listening.”

With the efforts to extend their training and volunteer offerings across the region, Newcombe said that Vancouver Island Crisis Society is dedicated to training a non-judgmental and skilled team to support those in crisis.

“Our team is only as strong as the people that are actually answering the calls and the training that they receive.”

For more information on how to volunteer, visit the society’s website. The next session is scheduled to begin Sept. 28.

Vancouver Island Crisis Society operates: Vancouver Island Crisis Line (1-888-494-3888), Crisis Chat, and Crisis Text. Two provincial lines, 1800SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), and 310Mental Health Support (310-6789). As well as Talk Suicide Canada (1-833-456-4566).

RELATED: Vancouver Island crisis line saw more calls than ever in a year of COVID-19

Stettler FCSS is bringing a pair of programs focusing on mental health and wellness to the community at the end of November. (Stock photo)

About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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