Crisis Centre B.C. volunteers scrambled to cover 206 incoming calls of people looking for help in January – marking an unusual increase for the first month of the year, but highlighting the continuing impact COVID-19 has had on mental health.
“These numbers are unusual for us, usually we don’t get a huge increase in calls in January,” said director Stacy Ashton. Overall, the centre has seen an 20 per cent increase in calls since the pandemic was declared.
“We’re hearing from callers, ‘When is it gonna be over? Am I going to get my vaccine? What about these new variants?’”
Before March 2020, when businesses were shut and gatherings were restricted, the call centre averaged 166 calls per day. Now, volunteers field about 186 calls per day.
Call numbers dipped during the summer, which Ashton attributed to being able to venture outdoors and see friends and family while social distancing.
However since December, and so far into 2021, call numbers have shot back up, despite the implementation of a federal vaccine plan that estimates mass vaccinations will be complete by early fall.
The director said COVID fatigue is setting in, especially with renewed public health directives to stay home.
“We’re all experiencing this kind of anxiety and fear and the impact of isolation,” Ashton said. “If you haven’t ever experienced mental health struggles you’re starting to understand what it’s like for people who have.”
Ashton hopes the influx of calls during the pandemic is also a reflection of something more positive: more people deciding to access mental health help, tied to a decrease in stigma.
“It takes about 11 minutes of those in crisis being listened to without judgement before callers are calm enough to return to their lives,” she said.
Where to get help
Crisis Centre B.C.: 1-800-SUICIDE, 1-800-784-2433
Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789
Vancouver Coastal Regional Distress Line: 604-872-3311
Sunshine Coast/Sea to Sky: 1-866-661-3311
Online Chat Service for Youth: YouthInBC.com (noon-1 a.m.)
Online Chat Service for Adults: CrisisCentreChat.ca (noon to 1 a.m.)
Kids Help: 1-800-668-6868, live chat counselling at kidshelpphone.ca
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre
Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.