News : Hotline for Mental Health/Addiction Services Anticipates Busy Holiday Season
Waterloo Region, Nov 26, 2014 -- A new hotline that's been overwhelmed with calls from people needing local mental health, addiction and crisis services is bracing for a busy holiday season.
Here 24/7 will have extra staff on call if needed over the holidays.
"We'll be fully prepared for whatever the demand is," said Helen Fishburn, service director at the Canadian Mental Health Association's local branch.
For people with mental health and addictions, she said, the holidays are tough because they can feel isolated and lonely, especially those without much family support, and the health care professionals they rely on are often away.
"It's just not a great time," Fishburn said.
She said crisis services are always busy in the days leading up to Christmas, but this will be the first holiday for the hotline that was launched in April to consolidate access to 12 agencies in Waterloo, Wellington and Dufferin.
The demand has not flagged since then.
"We keep climbing," Fishburn said. "We do not anticipate that will change over the holidays."
Mental health issues are a reason many people reach out to Here 24/7 for help.
Just over half (about 55 per cent) of the people calling the hotline who are connected to services are getting help with mental health issues.
Most of those — 30 per cent of total callers — get a consultation with a psychiatrist, while about 20 per cent are connected with counselling from a therapist or social worker.
Just over 20 per cent are connected to substance abuse counselling. Eating disorders and problem gambling account for just a few per cent of the referrals to services.
Young adults are calling most often, led by those age 26 and 30, followed by 19 to 25 and then 36 to 45.
The service does not currently have a way to gather data on more specific reasons why individuals are calling, but will in a few months.
What they know for sure now is there's a real need in the community — prompting the recent hiring of more staff to handle the higher than expected call volume.
Calls around the holidays are typically more urgent, Fishburn said.
"They're just not doing that well," she said.
Then, in January, people who have less urgent concerns start to call as they act on New Year's resolutions to make changes in their lives.
People may wrongly assume there's no help available on statutory holidays when offices are closed. But Here 24/7 is available day and night, weekdays and weekends, even on holidays.
"We will never be closed. We are always here," Fishburn said.
Connect with Here 24/7 at www.here247.ca or 1-844-437-3247
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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