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During the COVID-19 thousands of volunteers come forward to offer mental health support

Posted in Canada, Featured

Published on May 20, 2020 with No Comments

Helping others effective coping strategy to reduce pandemic stress, psychologist says as Canadians continue to grapple with an unprecedented level of stress as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, thousands of volunteers have come forward to offer emotional support to others — a move experts say could benefit their own mental well-being as much as the people they’re helping.   

“All of us are in this process of figuring out ‘What is the new normal?'” said Alisa Simon, senior vice-president of innovation at Kids Help Phone.  

Simon’s other title — chief youth officer — reflects the fact that for more than 30 years, Kids Help Phone has been a national helpline for children and young adults. 

But with the onset of COVID-19, the service has been deluged with calls and texts from grown-ups feeling overwhelmed.  

“They started with, ‘I’m so sorry. I’m not a kid. Can I still use this?'” Simon told Dr. Brian Goldman, host of CBC podcast The Dose, in a recent episode about COVID-19 and mental health. 

Although there are helplines and distress services for adults in Canada, there’s no single national line, so services tend to be “fragmented,” she said. 

“There is a huge gap in the fact that adults, parents, front-line workers are experiencing high levels of anxiety and stress right now. They don’t know where to turn.”

At the same time, Kids Help Phone was dealing with a huge jump in COVID-19-related calls from children and young people. 

In response, the organization launched a texting service specifically for adults and put out a call for volunteers who, after screening and training, could provide desperately needed support from their homes in this time of physical distancing. 

More than 8,000 people have applied to fill those roles, in which they serve both children and adults, according to Simon. “It is tremendous,” she said.

“A lot of what I find we’re doing, right now, is trying to remind people of the coping strategies that they’ve done in the past or that might work for them,” Simon said.

“Because, right now, for a lot of us it feels like ‘there’s nothing I can do. I’m stuck in my house.'”

But support services can help people remember there are things that made them feel better in pre-pandemic times that are still possible to do, whether it’s taking a walk, reading a book, writing in a journal, singing or gathering with friends — even if that gathering has to happen online. 

 

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