Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
A 24-hour peer support line will continue to operate for another season to offer mental health support during the pandemic period.
The Seneca Warm-Line, operated by Sara Riel Inc., had been providing four hours of daily phone support prior to the pandemic. At that time, the phone line received about 125 calls per month, and they were limited to 15 minutes each.
When the pandemic struck and isolation set in, the phone line expanded to provide support 24 hours a day without time restrictions on calls.
"With COVID, we couldn’t bring people in for our Seneca respite, which is where people can stay for up to five days supported by peer support," said executive director Tara Brousseau Snider.
"We were actually able to transfer all of our staff to the Warm-Line, which meant that we didn’t need to do any layoffs."
The number of calls jumped to 485 in March, followed by 835 in April. To date, the line has received about 5,000 calls and counting.
"Calls increased again in August because people were worried about going back to school and work. Actually, it’s been a wonderful service because it’s meant that people could get help during the day, evening and night," she said.
"We ended up getting a lot of new people calling who were worried about different issues. It might be a family member or loss of a job. It might be worrying about schooling and children and stresses on parents. These were really, really important issues with COVID."
With respite services now resuming, calls continue to come in to the Warm-Line.
"The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority had been supporting the Warm-Line all through COVID, but now we are having to also put our funding into our respite service," Brousseau Snider said.
"The United Way Winnipeg and the Government of Canada stepped in with a grant of $50,000, and then the Green Team stepped in with a grant of $16,000, so we’re able to continue with the Warm-Line through the fall. We’re really appreciative."
Both the peer-led respite service and the phone line are staffed by people who are familiar with mental health challenges.
"Everyone on the line has lived experience. They’ll listen to what your concern is and connect with you by talking it out or looking at what you might do for self-care or mindfulness. Through things like that, you can be helped," Brousseau Snider said.
"The other thing that’s wonderful about it is there’s no time limit. Sometimes people need more time to talk. If you call and you don’t get through immediately, we’ll call you back and make sure that you are listened to. The calls are increasing, so this is very important right now."
To reach the Seneca Warm-Line, call 204-942-9276. For more information about Sara Riel Inc. and its services, visit www.sararielinc.com.
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