Illustration courtesy

Illustration courtesy

‘From your bad day to your very worst day’

The Canadian Mental Health Association for the Kootenays is there for help and support

We all live on the razor’s edge. Our emotional, mental, and social well-being is under pressure everyday, and when our lives go sideways into catastrophe — even if it’s internal — we need our community to step in to help and support us.

The Canadian Mental Health Association for the Kootenays is there to get us that help and support.

Natalie Hake is the Director of Public Education and Crisis Services for the CMHA for the Kootenays.

“While I believe we have a resilient community, we are receiving a higher number of requests for support, and tools and skills to help people navigate and manage some of the stresses that are happening for them,” Hake said.

“Unfortunately, for many people, there are many life factors happening, many life stressors. Not specifically one thing — it can be a ripple effect.

“CMHA is happy and proud to be able to offer as supportive programming for people.”

For many who need help or support, or who have reached a point of immediate crisis, the first point of contact could be the CMHA’s Crisis Line. The Crisis Line provides confidential telephone services for youth, adults and seniors who need a listening ear, emotional support, intervention and information about local resources. And more and more, people in need are calling. The important work that CMHA is doing is reflected in the fact that Crisis Line responders are answering 40 per cent more calls than before the pre-pandemic.

“People are reaching out more, which is wonderful,” Hake said.

An understanding voice is the first contact in getting help or support. The Crisis line can open the door to that support.

“We take calls from people on a bad day, to their very worst day,” Hake said. “It could be a call from someone that needs some emotional support — feeling isolated, lonely, or just wants to connect. Or to somebody’s very worst day, where they’re considered ending their life.

“It’s very broad. But we’re always, always providing non-judgmental emotional support. Always. It’s a broad spectrum of calls that we take, and we’re prepared for each and everyone of them.”

Five sites, connected via the Interior Crisis Line network, encompasses a vast territory: The call centres are based out of Trail, Cranbrook, Kelowna, Vernon and Williams Lake.

“Between us we cover the Interior region,” Hake said.

At the moment, five CMHA staff and 15 volunteers man the phones 24-7. The Crisis Line is a major program, funded by the Provincial Health Services Authority. But CMHA is always looking for more volunteers.

Natalie Hake is running a Crisis Line training session for anyone interested in volunteering for the service. The session is comprised a four days of in-class training — May 27 and 28, and June 3 and 4.

“It’s quite intense, but because the intensity of our calls is higher, we want to make sure that our volunteers are prepared.”

The number for the Interior Crisis Line Network is 1-888-353-2273.

From the Crisis Line, callers in trouble can be referred to one of the appropriate programs the CMHA offers, or one of their community partners.

“A lot of referrals that CMHA would give could be to the appropriate CMHA program, or to any of the CMHA community partners,” Hake said. “It’s nice to have those options, and work collaboratively with others to help somebody stay safe.”

The programs CMHA-Kootenays offer include Housing Services, Youth Services, Mental Health Services, Women’s Services, and Public Education.

“Housing can be a major mental health problem for many people,” Hake said.

CMHA provides 447 units of affordable and safe housing in the East and West Kootenays. There are sites in seven locations: Cranbrook, Kimberley, Golden, Creston, Nelson, Trail and Castlegar. The housing — which including the newly opened Victoria Gardens apartment building in Cranbrook — is tailored to fit a broad spectrum of people’s needs.

Youth Services is also seeing a rise in requests for youth support. “The programs we have here have been making a difference for youth — learning skills, helping them navigate and learning to cope with stress,” Hake said. “Some are facing trauma, abuse or homelessness.”

Youth Services includes the Peace Program, for children ages three to 12 who’ve experienced violence in the home, or who having difficulty with parental support, or parental separation and divorce. It provides intervention strategies to help with self-esteem and emotional health.

The Empowerment Program is a new program designed to help children ages 6-12 who are experiencing mild to moderate levels of anxiety or other difficult feelings.

The Lifeskills Program is for youth aged 13-18 who have a diagnosis of a physical or mental disability. This 15-week programs is designed to teach life skills such as budgeting, cooking, shopping, and managing emotions.

And Youth Outreach and Family Support, in the Cranbrook-Kimberley area, works with at-risk youth, helping them with advocacy, or addiction issues, or transitioning to independent living, problem solving, relationships, or working with parents.

Through the Volunteer Kootenays program, CMHA connects volunteers with a variety of opportunities with organizations across the Kootenays, including CMHA.

Programs include: the Volunteer Assisted Shopping Program (volunteers assist with grocery shopping on a Friday afternoon together); the Senior Friendly Visitor Program (provides a caring community volunteer to a senior who is isolated and living independently in their home); the Check In Call Program (volunteers have one-on-one telephone conversations to help seniors maintain independence, and decrease social isolation); the Snow Angels Program (volunteers are matched with Cranbrook seniors and/or persons with disabilities to help with shovelling snow during the winter months); the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (volunteers assist low to modest income clients complete their annual tax returns); and the Crisis Line.

CMHA Women’s Services’ Kootenay Haven Transition House is a safe, confidential location for women and children fleeing or at risk of violence. Haven Gardens’ second stage housing is a program that provides safe, comfortable apartment units for women and their children who are ready to make positive change in their lives.

The Women’s Community Outreach assists women who may not be attached to any programs, but require assistance and support. This could include support, life skill support and working with the women who require assistance to explore different resources in the community.

The Canadian Mental Health Association for the Kootenays is a key organ in our communities — the region’s beating heart ready to help people of all ages, classes and occupations who are up against life’s walls. You can learn more about them at their website

If you are in crisis and need to talk, call the Interior Crisis Line Network at1-888-353-CARE (2273).