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News : Caller to Helpline Only Gets Message
Cambridge, Ont., Canada, June 16, 2016 -- A Cambridge suicide distress line that says it operates 24 hours, seven days a week offered a recording saying it was unavailable when someone called the helpline.
The Cambridge man was unable to speak to someone when he called Telecare Cambridge Distress Centre earlier this week.
Instead, a recording said no one was available.
Linda Hedderson of Telecare said if someone calls the distress line and no one is available to answer, a message comes on to say that the person should call the Canadian Mental Health Association and a phone number is given.
The man, who The Record is not identifying, says the recording said the user was not available and did not say he could call another agency.
"It's fortunate I wasn't in crisis. Had it been, it could have been a different ending," he said.
Hedderson said she will "double check" to make sure the recording provides an alternative number and does not say no one is available.
Hedderson said the office is staffed by 28 volunteers and there are times when a volunteer is unable to respond to a call.
But when that happens, calls are forwarded to its "sister office" known as Telecare Peterborough, she said.
"We wouldn't want someone who is suicidal to leave a message. We want them to get help right away," she said.
Hedderson admits the organization only has one line and if a volunteer is on the phone, someone else may not be able to get through. Calls come from the region and as far away as Ottawa and Florida, she said.
Telecare has been in existence in Cambridge since 1981. It is staffed by volunteers only and receives about $8,000 from the City of Cambridge and the Region of Waterloo. The organization makes about $14,000 from bingo.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Friday, June 17, 2016