World Suicide Prevention Day: Crisis line provides valuable link for support

“We really try to listen without judgement and not a lot of advice and that’s really hard to come by sometimes.”

The phone rings and there is a voice on the other end. But it’s not your mom, sister or best friend, it’s an anonymous person ready to listen.

That is the beauty of the West Kootenay Boundary Regional Crisis Line (1-888-353-2273).

Since 1987, the 24-hour support line has helped those who feel like they’re in a crisis, whether it’s struggling with anxiety, depression, addiction or thoughts of suicide.

Today, the support team based in Trail, is stepping out for hope and resilience on World Suicide Prevention Day. Crisis line staff and volunteers will join other organizations for a kite-flying ceremony at Kinsmen Park in Castlegar this afternoon.

“I think for me I see it as a real opportunity,” said Karen Miller, crisis line coordinator. “I mean if someone is willing to come forward and be honest about their feelings, I really appreciate their honesty and the risk that they’re taking because it takes a lot of courage.”

Suicide is a complex issue that involves numerous factors and should not be attributed to any one single cause, according to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

People considering suicide feel as though their pain will never end and that suicide is the only way to stop the suffering.

Miller has been working with crisis lines for 22 years in some form or another and says the West Kootenay line made some real strides last year when it pooled regional resources and developed a website (www.westkootenaysuicideprevention.org), a one-stop place to find support and links to local and national resources.

But this year marks the first time the Trail Family and Individual Resource (FAIR) Centre’s program has spearheaded an event.

The crisis line operates with some paid staff and a growing number of volunteers, who are trained on listening and educated on resources available.

“The volunteers often bring a really valuable resource to a lot of this because they really care,” said Miller. “They’re there because they care and that often can be the most powerful thing for a person who’s reaching out is to hear that there is someone on the other side who’s willing to listen to them, someone who has the time and is passionate about the work they do.”

The line is completely confidential and can be reached at any time of day toll-free. The staff focuses on listening, only intervening in an emergency.

“We really try to listen without judgement and not a lot of advice and that’s really hard to come by sometimes,” said Miller. “It’s nice for people who really feel that it’s a safe place and they can just talk and vent and be heard without someone telling them what to do.”

The importance of making resources easy to access for those in need has been a goal for the regional line, which is evident with its involvement in the Interior Crisis Line Network,  a fairly new network of five crisis lines now working together to better serve the entire Interior Health Region.

Most local callers will still talk with a local worker, but if the line is already busy, calls will be routed to another crisis line, which will have staff with all the training and information necessary to properly serve the caller.

“I really believe that we can save lives,” said Miller. “I think that if you can be there at a critical moment to be available to people, to be willing to listen to them talk about suicide because a lot of the time there’s a lot of stigma and silence that surrounds suicide.”

The crisis line and other organizations pushing for the same mandate will be breaking that silence.

The community is invited to attend the local World Suicide Prevention Day event today at noon that kicks off with a barbecue hosted by Castlegar Hospice, prior to the symbolic ceremony at 12:30 at Kinsmen Park in Castlegar.

“The idea is that the kite is a person we’ve lost to suicide or is struggling with suicide and the string is our connection with them,” explained Miller. “We have a number of ribbons that people have written messages of remembrance or of hope or even support for people who are still struggling with suicide.”

The campaign is intended to give families and employees the tools they need to thrive and be safer by strengthening connections, promoting conversations about mental wellness and knowing how we can help protect and care for each other during times of crisis.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people 15 to 34 years old, according to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

Each year suicide claims the lives of more than 3,500 people in Canada. According to the 2010 Coroner’s Report, B.C. lost an average of 495 people a year due to suicide from 2001-2010.

Those interested in becoming a crisis line volunteer, can call 364-0274.

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