Funding will ensure help is there 24 hours-a-day

EDMONTON, AB – United Way of the Alberta Capital Region is providing one-time emergency funding of $48,000 to the Crisis Support Centre, a program of The Support Network, to ensure the Distress Line remains open 24 hours-a-day.  This funding will take the program to the end of March 2015, at which time ongoing needs and funding options will be reviewed.

During the month of August alone, the Distress Line experienced numerous call increases compared to the same time in the previous year.  This included:

  • 16% in calls related to mental health concerns;
  • 29% in moderate-risk suicide related calls;
  • 6% in third-party suicide risk assessments;
  • 22% in high-risk third-party calls; and
  • 200% in low-risk third-party suicide calls.

“Suicide prevention has been a topic of growing concern, with the most recent local attention being on specific projects, such as the work the City of Edmonton is doing on the High Level Bridge, and support programs like the Distress Line,” explains Nancy McCalder, Executive Director of The Support Network.  “This funding will help us ensure that, when someone in distress calls for help, there will be someone on the other end of the line.”

The funds will be used to boost tele-interpreter services, used as an essential tool for callers whose first language is not English; and to ensure that skilled personnel are on hand to handle the higher call volumes any time – day or night.

“Along with planned funding that we provide to over 50 social service partners, we do our best to prepare for unforeseen emergencies that connect to our work in the community,” notes Allan Undheim, Vice President of Community Building and Investment for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region.  “This funding is critical in supporting community members when they’re at their most vulnerable, and we’re very pleased our emergency reserves were there to help make it happen.”

This funding is in step with United Way’s efforts to support community members struggling with many issues related to poverty in the Alberta Capital Region.  “A life in poverty is full of stress and can often lead to mental health issues that are very hard to overcome without the right help,” said Undheim.  “The Distress Line can make all the difference in facing some of the most personal and sensitive challenges individuals can experience.”

Over the past year, United Way also provided emergency funding support to the Bissell Centre to help relocate and continue providing services through their Thrift Shoppe after the original location was extensively damaged by a fire.

This most recent announcement for the Distress Line comes at a time when the community is participating in Lift the Silence Suicide Awareness Week, which takes place from September 8 to 12.  It includes a full week of activities along with a provincial campaign to help people spot the signs of someone in distress, start the conversation and encourage them to reach out for help.  It is expected that these efforts will also increase call volumes and, with the right support, decrease the number of suicides in the region.

For community members in distress – or for those who know someone in distress – the Crisis Support Centre’s Distress Line will be there at 780-482-4357.

About United Way
Working with the largest network of partners in the region, United Way brings community members together to create pathways out of poverty.  With a focus on lasting solutions, local impact and measurable results, we can move closer to the vision of a poverty-free community.

Nancy Critchley
Communications Director
United Way of the Alberta Capital Region
p. 780-443-8381  c. 780-909-1794

Nancy McCalder
Executive Director
The Support Network
p. 780-482-0198  c. 780.952.6262