(KCR photo)

KCR: Listening the key to crisis line awareness

KCR Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

It’s Crisis Line Awareness Week, and we are giving a shout-out to all of the incredible volunteer Crisis Line Responders who are offering a critical yet easily accessible safety net for anyone personally dealing with a crisis or supporting someone who is facing challenges. Help is available by phone 24/7 at 1-888-353-2273 and by text to 45645 between 1 -9 pm PST.

The top two reasons for volunteering are usually 1) the desire to give back to the community and 2) gaining experience or developing skills. This week’s column features the KCR Community Resources team that manages the ICLN Kelowna Crisis Centre: Michelle, Shae, and Christie. Coincidentally all started volunteering for the Crisis Line for these popular reasons and found deeply meaningful employment that feeds their passion for helping people. So if you are looking to volunteer as a Crisis Line Responder, contact them today at crisisline@kcr.ca as they will be holding the next training session starting in May.

When asked what the key skills or attributes a Crisis Line Responder needs, all three agree that active listening skills are the most important. They also list empathy, compassion, patience, and the ability to stay calm as personal characteristics.

“Being reliable is a key trait. We can’t have people miss shifts, so they have to be able to manage their time,” explains Michelle, who has been the Crisis Line Coordinator since 2016. “They also have to be non-judgemental and be interested in personal growth. Finally, they have to be willing to learn and grow in this position.”

“I can remember coming into this role, feeling scared and unsure about how I would help and what calls I would get,” continues Michelle, who started volunteering at the Crisis Line in 2011. “Over time, I really built my confidence and skills, and now I love seeing this transformation in our volunteers. I love to provide them the training and skills to help them see their potential and build the confidence in themselves to help and save others.”

Christie, who started volunteering in 2020 when she first moved to Kelowna, adds, “I had already volunteered at a Crisis Line in the Lower Mainland. So when I moved to Kelowna in the pandemic, I saw volunteering as a great way to bring the fundamental skills I already had to my new community.”

“Crisis Line Responders make a huge impact while enhancing their own abilities. Listening and support skills are invaluable in our personal lives and give you transferable skills in all professions,” explains Christie—who led the charge to add text services to the program thanks to a grant from the Kiwanis Legacy Fund through the KGH Foundation. “I think so much of our communication is now being done through text. This program opens up another way for young people to reach out and discreetly get support.”

Volunteer Crisis Line Responders come from all walks of life, and while many may be in social work, counselling, or health fields, some come from very different industries.

“I can think of two of our current volunteers who have very different professions,” says Shae, who can’t name the volunteers as their identity is confidential. “One works in her job every day, and through the volunteer work that she has been doing for the past five years, she finds real meaning for her life. The other volunteer is retired and stepped up during the pandemic and has made a huge impact because he is always willing to take a shift, especially the hard-to-fill ones on holidays, where it is even more critical for us to have the lines answered.”

Building connections and being supportive are vital to managing the volunteers. “We are here to encourage and support them. This role holds a lot of stress because of confidentiality. They can’t debrief with anyone else,” explains Michelle. “A supportive environment is one of the biggest things we offer.”

“I wish we could brag and tell everyone about who they are and what they do, but we can’t. All information shared on a call or text is confidential, and the Responders can’t really talk about it with friends and family. They aren’t doing it for the accolades but for the personal impact that they make.”

To make a lasting impact in your community and potentially save a life, consider joining the Crisis Line team and contact us at crisisline@kcr.ca or call 250-763.8008.

Dorothee Birker is the communications and development coordinator for KCR Community Resources. If you are interested in sharing your volunteer or organizational news, please contact Dorothee at dorothee@kcr.ca.

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