Thaddée Bergler is the program manager of Fraser Health Crisis Line, operated by Options Community Services in Surrey. (submitted photo)

Thaddée Bergler is the program manager of Fraser Health Crisis Line, operated by Options Community Services in Surrey. (submitted photo)

More people are calling Fraser Health Crisis Line, with more volunteers willing to listen

COVID-related issues on the rise for those who dial B.C.’s busiest crisis line

The phones of Fraser Health Crisis Line are ringing more often these days, compared to pre-pandemic numbers.

COVID-19 is considered the cause of a 12-per-cent spike in call volume for the Surrey-based service, which involves the help of close to 150 well-trained volunteers.

A research survey of B.C. residents commissioned by Pacific Blue Cross reveals 37 per cent of respondents are depressed or anxious, but just 15 per cent seek counselling support.

The Fraser Health Crisis Line, a program of Options Community Services, offers free, confidential emotional support, crisis intervention, and community resource information for any concern, including mental health and substance use.

The numbers to call are 604-951-8855 or toll-free, 1-877-820-7444 — any time of day, 365 days a year.

It’s the busiest crisis line in B.C., fielding close to 50,000 calls annually in the Fraser Health region.

The program is managed by Thaddée Bergler for Options Community Services, at a call centre in the Whalley area.

“About 20 per cent of the calls we take have some aspect of it that is COVID-related, whether it’s the main concern or some side issue prompting another issue for someone,” Bergler said on Wednesday (Nov. 18).

“What we’re finding is that people in the community with a mental illness, and maybe already live isolated lives, they’re facing an additional challenge to their everyday life with COVID and less opportunities to socialize and get support.”

Some people call the crisis line on a regular basis, Bergler noted.

“Unfortunately there are some people in the community that the only type of social interaction they have is through the crisis line, and sometimes a phone call with one of our volunteers is what gets them through the day.”

The Pacific Blue Cross-commissioned study, involving 800 B.C. adults polled by Insights West from Sept. 16-24, suggests that since the pandemic hit, B.C. crisis lines have experienced a 27-per-cent increase in call volume, with more people seeking support for anxiety (47 per cent increase), depression (40 per cent increase) or loneliness or social isolation (24 per cent).

The volunteers of Fraser Health Crisis Line are trained to deal with such issues – and more people are signing up to volunteer right now, according to Bergler.

”We always are (looking for volunteers),” he said, “but actually since the start of COVID we’ve seen a significant interest in volunteering with us. We’re almost inundated right now with people who are interested.

“We’ve hypothesized a couple of reasons why,” Bergler continued, “and I think with COVID there are a lot less volunteer opportunities out there, and ours is essential. We need to continue our service and we rely on volunteers to do that. And I think we have a really good reputation in the community, so people who want to get their start in the helping field, whether it’s police, being a doctor, a therapist, these are the kinds of skills and experiences they want to have under their belt when they enter those programs or jobs, to pursue those careers.”

The crisis line aims to have between 140 and 160 volunteers available, “and maybe 170 is the ceiling of what we can have, with the staff team we have in place to provide support and supervision,” Bergler noted.

“It’s gotta be a fit for the right kind of person to do it, with our training program. (Volunteers) have to demonstrate certain levels of skills we require, with a knowledge piece and of course an attitudinal piece. There’s an active screening process we have in place.”

The PBC Health Foundation recently donated $10,000 to Fraser Health Crisis Line for additional staffing, PPE, cleaning supplies and equipment.

Bergler said that right now, the agency is not set up for volunteers to take calls from their homes.

“They all still do it from our work site at Options,” he said. “At our quietest hours we’ll have two (volunteers), and in our busiest hours (from 7 to 11 p.m.) we will have a minimum four, and during some transition between shifts, the most we can have is nine at one time.”

For now, the phone is the only line of communication.

“Online is not something we’re looking at doing, at the moment,” Bergler said. “Right now we’re focusing on what we can do, and do well. There are a lot of challenges that come with delivering this service via text or online.”

More details about Fraser Health Crisis Line, including volunteer opportunities, are posted to options.bc.ca. Orientation sessions are planned on Zoom in coming weeks, including one on Nov. 29.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Coronavirusmental healthsuicide crisis

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langley residents took their questions and concerns to TransLink’s open house at Langley City Hall in November of 2019. (Langley Advance Times files)
LETTER: Langley MP’s SkyTrain request will go nowhere

Liberal government will ignore Conservative MP’s call for SkyTrain funding

Langley City’s Gregory Douglas snapped a picture of a rainbow over the downtown core Tuesday, Nov. 24. “Just wanted to share this beautiful view that I happened to capture today, that illustrates not only Mother Nature’s beauty,” but what an “amazing city” we live in. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
SHARE: Langley City resident discovers treasure and both ends of the rainbow

Send us your photo showing how you view Langley, and it could be featured in a future edition

Sonya Perkins of Langley’s Forever Yours Lingerie said there’ve been challenges, but customers are supporting local shops during the pandemic. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
‘Shop Local’ key as Langley businesses work through COVID

Business groups are trying to encourage local buying to keep stores alive

Army and Navy was in business for more than a century but closed earlier this year, citing COVID-19 as the cause. The space at Langley Mall has been taken over by McFrugal’s Discount Outlet. (Lisa Farquharson/Black Press Media)
Few closures as Langley businesses battle COVID-19 downturn

Smaller, Canadian chains among casualties locally

Velma MacAllister, coordinator of the Langley Christmas Bureau, holds up donated gift cards at the bureau’s temporary location at Timms Community Centre in Langley City. The bureau is in need of cash, gift card or cheque donations this year to support 800 local families. (Joti Grewal/Langley Advance Times)
Generosity imperative this holiday season

Langley Christmas Bureau is dependent on the donation of gift cards this year

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

There are 32 active outbreaks in seniors' homes in the Fraser Health region.
MAP: See the locations of 32 active COVID-19 outbreaks in Fraser Health seniors’ homes

There are 32 active outbreaks in assisted-living, long-term care homes and seniors’ rental buildings

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Police lights
Vancouver elementary school locked down after unknown man walks into classroom

Police arrested the man and sent him for a psych evaluation

Most Read