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Calls to mental health crisis line spike due to COVID-19

Last Updated Mar 26, 2020 at 4:05 pm PDT

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Calls to mental health distress line have increased, as many feel anxious about pandemic

Anyone feeling overwhelmed or anxious urged to call crisis line

The last time the distress line saw a similar uptick was following the 9/11 terrorist attacks

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – More British Columbians are reaching out for help as the COVID-19 pandemic taxes their mental health.

The Distress Phone Service, a 24-hour line operated by the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of BC, has seen a significant increase in calls in recent weeks, according to executive director Stacy Ashton.

The centre typically receives 120 to 140 calls a day, she said, but lately that number has been 170 to 200.

The last time the distress line saw a similar uptick was following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, she added.

Many callers have mentioned the virus outbreak, “feeling helpless or hopeless,” Ashton said.

As the economy suffers, many callers are worried about being laid off or already have been, she added, while others are worried about taking care of their kids, at home while schools are closed.

“A lot of it is worrying about the future – what the future will bring.”

Ashton said there’s no strict criteria for who should call the crisis line: “Anybody who is feeling overwhelmed or stressed and needs somebody to talk to.”

With so much change happening, she said it’s often helpful for people just to talk with someone.

“We’re really – all of us – in this together. So we’re absolutely there to answer the calls that come in.”

The pandemic can be especially hard on people’s mental health when they are also isolated from others while staying at home on the advice of public health officials, Ashton added.

She said distress-line call-takers are encouraging people to reach out to loved ones virtually.

“I think we’re all connecting with each other, the easier it is for everyone.”

Call the crisis line:

  • In Vancouver, Richmond, North Shore or Sea to Sky: 604-872-3311
  • Howe Sound, Sunshine Coast, Bella Coola: 1-866-661-3311
  • Seniors’ Distress Line : 604-872-1234
  • If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal (B.C. wide): 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
  • Mental Health Support Line (BC-wide): 310-6789

More help:

The B.C. government has also created a web page with resources and links to help you manage anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here.