Currently many people are suffering emotional and mental distress from isolation, job loss and social conflicts. Our organization is concerned not only with fighting for our rights and freedoms, but helping our fellow Albertans to get through this very difficult time. If you can volunteer a few hours per week please sign up. Our support line coordinator will get back to you to confirm your times slot(s).
Calls go to our 1 800 number and are then rerouted to your cell phone based upon a schedule. Callers do not see your number, neither should you reveal anything other than your first name. All that is required is the ability to listen, and to let people know that they are not alone. Click the button above to hear our recorded zoom call with a very experienced therapist who donated her time to teach us how to handle these calls.
Support Line Volunteer Form
This will add you to a mailing list just for the support line volunteers, and also give organizers an indication of your preferred time slots.
If you are unsure of your ability to offer support the below resources will be beneficial. Please take some time to review them before taking calls.
Recording of Our Zoom Session with a Professional Therapist
We were very privileged to have a professional and very experienced therapist here in the Calgary area spend some time with us over Zoom. Below is the recording of that session. She provides some very practical advice on how to offer support to callers. The recording picks up after the introductory section, where we begin asking questions. Carmen is responding to questions posted via chat.
Notes from Carmen's comments...
- Trust your impulse to just be 'with'
- Offer hope
- Don't judge
- Try to relate and understand
- Allow them to feel their emotions
- Talk less and listen more
- Be okay with silence and know that silence is okay
- Be patient and calm
- Be 'with' them in their experience
- Show you're interested in what they are saying
- Listen to understand, not to respond
- Listen to completion
- Our job is not to fix or solve their problem. Our job is to be present.
- We don't need to offer advice
- Get them to talk. ie: that must be really hard!
- Bring your curiousity
- Be genuine
Tips and Notes from the Session
Above all remember to listen. As Carmen says, listen more than you talk. This is not the place to express your own views and experiences, or to convert someone to your beliefs. Simply listen, affirm, and let them know they are not alone.
What to Do If They are Suicidal
First, we are trying hard not to put you in this position. Visitors to the Support Line page are presented with a prominent message at the top of the page which reads "If you are considering suicide, call this number now:" with the number for the Suicide Hotline. They are trained to deal with situations like this.
The hope for the Support Line is that we can help people to avoid getting to that place. However, here are a couple of tips if you do find yourself talking to someone who is considering suicide...
- If you are with someone else and can show them the number the person is calling from, quietly have the other person call the police. The police will not arrest them, but rather will assist them in getting the help they need. They too are trained to deal with these situations. The person may be angry with you for calling them, but you may very well save a life with this measure. Stay on the line and keep them talking until the police arrive. Do not give any hint that the police have been called as this may push them over the edge.
- If you are alone, listen, be calm and reassuring. Let the caller know they are not alone. When you feel you have established a rapport with them ask that after they have talked to you they then call the suicide prevention center. Once again, this will guide them to the professional help they need. Do not rush this. Make sure you've established trust first and then voice it as a request, not a demand. Make it clear you will stay on the line with them for as long as they need.
Worst Case Scenario - and What to Do
If you discover that a person you spoke to did in fact take their own life sometime after the call - be it minutes, days or weeks, the person who now needs support is you. It will be natural to feel guilt and to believe that 'if only I had been better they would still be alive'. This is self-defeating and in the vast majority of cases untrue. There are many factors that contribute to suicide. In many cases the person is mentally ill and incapable of rational thought. Sometimes someone who is barely holding themselves together, and who may in fact have taken great comfort from talking to you, subsequently has an experience which overwhelms their already weakened defenses and they lose hope.
It is not your fault.
You did your best to help. Professional therapists lose patients frequently, and especially in this environment of fear, isolation and despair. Seek counseling for yourself. Contact the organizer and take yourself off of duty until and unless you feel ready again. There is nothing further you can do to help that person, but you can help you.
A personal note from Will
Some of you know that early in the first lockdown a close friend of our teenage son took her own life. Our son is still in therapy dealing with this, as he tried very hard to help her. Since then, we have learned of other suicides, and one of our members recently was in the right place at the right time to narrowly avoid another.
What you have volunteered for is nothing less than heroic. It's scary, I know. It's a lot of responsibility and there will always be the fear that you will fail. But you've stepped up nonetheless to help others, complete strangers to you.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but action in the face of it.
So thank you all for your courage, and for caring for your fellow human beings. While I am not a religious man myself, I think there is great lesson to be learned from the fourth chapter of Genesis, when God asks Cain where his brother is, and Cain responds, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Putting aside for the moment that Cain killed his brother, the answer to the question is "Yes, Cain. Yes, you are." Because caring for our fellow man is the only way a society can truly function.
Our organization is not only fighting for our freedoms, but for the livelihoods and lives of our fellow Albertans. You have my deepest gratitude for joining this fight. Thank you all.