Change can be difficult, but often it brings forth new possibilities.
That’s the situation the Vancouver Island Crisis Line Society found itself in, with a time of transition to a single telephone number for the entire Island.
But after one year of the single line – just in time for Crisis Line Awareness Week (March 20-26) – the transition has been a success.
“The way things had been done for 40 years had to be re-examined, reshaped and streamlined to give all residents of Vancouver Island consistency in service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week with public access to mental health professionals in their communities,” said Heather Owen, society promotions and community relations coordinator.
The new number – 1-888-494-3888 – started in service in March 2010 by accepting calls from the Courtenay area and slowly progressed until finally accepting calls from all areas of Vancouver Island by the end of June.
To date, the new service has received approximately 32,000 calls with the busiest day seeing 155 calls answered. Up until this time, the local numbers being used by callers automatically forwarded into the new number.
Owen said the society has been distributing materials promoting the new number so that it can feel confident the public will know where to call when the local numbers are no longer in use.
Even then, a message will be on local crisis line numbers advising callers of the new access number.
The promotional materials have reached every school on Vancouver Island, the new number is listed next to 911 in phone directories and Island-wide news campaigns have advertised the new number.
“With the help of all our [Vancouver Island Health Authority] partner agencies, we feel confident that the materials are getting into the hands of those more vulnerable callers that can benefit from the ongoing support of the crisis lines,” said Owen. “The main message is that anyone who feels overwhelmed with their circumstances should pick up the phone and give us a call.
“We can all get to that point sometimes in our lives so don’t wait until you feel that your options are running out and you have nowhere to turn.”
Owen said the society provides non-judgmental, empathetic, caring people who are willing to listen and provide encouragement.
“Sometimes, that kind of support is all that someone needs in order to make it through a difficult time in their life,” she said. “It takes courage to reach out and admit that you need help but it is the best choice you can make for yourself.”