Crisis line serving the Okanagan sees record call volume during COVID-19 pandemic

There are signs that everything we’re going through during the COVID-19 pandemic, from job losses to social isolation, is taking a toll on our mental health.

A crisis line that serves a large section of the B.C. interior, including the Okanagan, received a record volume of calls in March — and more of those calls than usual were from people in an acute state of crisis.

The Canadian Mental Health Association Vernon branch said calls to the Interior Crisis Line Network were up 32 per cent in the last two weeks of March, with a 140-per cent increase in the number of calls from people in an acute crisis.

Branch executive director Julia Payson describes the current situation as a “double whammy, because not only are we going through a crisis but we are going through a crisis in a time when our social connection is interrupted.”

Payson said that’s significant, as social connection is typically one of the things that helps people the most in a time of crisis.

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She said callers to the crisis line have a wide variety of concerns including financial worries, as efforts to slow down the spread of the virus close businesses, and worries about getting sick during the pandemic.

Payson said people are also struggling with the loss of normal activities and normal ways of coping.

The challenging time has the mental health organization encouraging people to pick up the phone or go online to connect with friends and family.

“The mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is quite real and something that we really need to take seriously. We really need to be proactive in supporting ourselves and supporting other people in our community,” Payson said.

The Canadian Mental Health Association said the crisis line is there to help “anyone who need additional mental health support” and can be reached 24/7 at 1-888-353-2273.

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