Shout Out to mental health professionals, the often invisible emergency health care worker

One of my favourite mental health professionals is the owner of local yoga studio, Village Yoga, Raelene Hodgson. She recently shared this important reminder that crisis calls are increasing, every day, and that teams of counsellors are doing life-saving work, every day.

Call volume has increased by an average of 25 per cent over the past seven months, said Stacy Ashton, executive director of Crisis Centre B.C., where volunteers make up more than 80 per cent of the responders trained to answer calls from people in distress and provide immediate access to barrier-free, non-judgmental, confidential support.

The helpline was already busy before the pandemic.

“Over the past five years our calls have increased about 40 per cent overall. The spike we’re seeing from COVID is on top of the overall increase in activity on the phone lines,” Ashton said.

My sense of COVID-19 is that it hasn’t created a lot of new traumas or dramas in the world, so much as that it is amplifying existing ones. I don’t think COVID has necessarily created mental health crises, but it undoubtedly has revealed and exacerbated vulnerabilities and tendencies. AND it has definitely revealed systemic vulnerabilities.

This is an opportunity to mend, repair and regenerate.

Maybe mental health has been marginalized in the system, because we marginalize it ourselves. We are proactive and proud of our physical health efforts, we register for Strava and compete with friends over who can log the most kms. We try different diets, we hype the latest trend via Facebook. We even give people medals for their physical accomplishments.

Our mental health is integral to our overall wellness. We’re as much minds as we are bodies. But maybe you’re like me, and your mental health literacy is far poorer than your physical health literacy. I mean, I know what I should do to be physically healthy – move my body, exercise, eat well, drink water, get sleep. Why is mental health such a mystery? And why would it feel like some form of brokenness or weakness or failure to acknowledge that my mental health is out-of-shape?

I’m interested in exploring this more – not just destigmatizing mental health, but normalising the care of our mental selves… I’m interested in finding better language for talking about. And hearing from you wonderful people. Guest column, anyone?

The CBC story reports that it takes 120 hours to train a new volunteer, and that training costs money. You can donate here to support the work of the Crisis Centre BC.

Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau was the only leadership candidate who spoke of the importance of mental health funding in the election. So, why not drop our new MLA Jeremy Valeriote a line to congratulate him, and let him know that you, too, share the concern for mental well-being and for increasing funding to these important health support services.

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