The Yukon’s Distress and Support Line is up and running.
Volunteers at the territory’s new crisis line took their first call Monday.
The phone line, at 1-844-533-3030, runs seven days a week between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. and is a toll-free number across the territory.
Callers will find trained volunteers who are willing to listen to people’s problems.
“We really want to be a support first and then providing resources. Always asking people what they’re looking for, versus ‘I think this would be the best thing for you,’” said Hailey Hechtman with the Second Opinion Society. “Just trying to be as focused on empowering the person to find the resources that are going to be useful for them as possible.”
Plans for the line were announced in September.
Since then 28 volunteers have gone through training from specialists flown in from Ottawa.
That training lasted for four days and focused on things like “active listening skills, dealing with crisis, things around mental health and addictions and child abuse and all sorts of topics,” Hechtman said.
The group has also completed the local suicide assistance program and training about various resources that exist around the territory.
Hechtman said she’s been impressed with the amount of interest the phone line received from potential volunteers, almost right from the start.
“It was really surprising, especially the turnout for the first few days after we made the announcement,” she said. “We got a lot of the applications in really quickly.”
Volunteers are both men and women, covering a range of ages. Some come from professions like nursing, teaching or social services.
Others are people who may have faced a past crisis themselves, without having the benefit of having someone to talk to, said Hechtman.
“Usually in the training people drop out over time… a few people leave or they realize it’s not for them. But we haven’t had anyone dropout.”
Posters and cards with the new phone number have been sent out across the territory to let people know that it’s available.
“We’ve been in contact with the First Nations and all the community health centres to make sure they have access to that,” she said.
The next step would be more training planned for the spring. In those sessions, Hechtman said she hopes to bring in representatives from the communities to talk about specific concerns that exist outside of Whitehorse.
The phone line is being paid for using $30,000 from the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund and $25,000 from NorthwesTel. On top of that, the Yukon Department of Health and Social Services donated $8,100, over six months.
The City of Whitehorse is also providing free advertising of the new phone number on buses and at the Canada Games Centre.
More information on the support line is online at http://yukondistressline.weebly.com or by contacting the Second Opinion Society at (867) 667-2037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Ashley Joannou at