Heat and Fire Lead to Increased Calls to BC Crisis Line Network: Media Release

Posted August 18th, 2022

Heat and the threat of wildfires are causing British Columbians increased anxiety and worry, leading to more calls being made to 1-800-SUICIDE and the province-wide mental health support line, 310-6789.

“Calls to the mental health crisis line and suicide intervention line increase during heatwaves,” says Asha Croggon of the BC Crisis Line Network. “We saw an increase last year during the heat dome and the devastating wildfires, and we are seeing it happen again this year. Depending on the severity and intensity of the situation, increases are between 10 to 25 per cent, depending on the region. This is in addition to the increased call volume and complexity of calls since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Rural and remote communities are especially impacted by the recurring threats from heatwaves and wildfires as they try to cope with the trauma caused by last year’s wildfire that ravaged the Village of Lytton and other areas of BC. The support provided by crisis lines to these communities is crucial.

During extreme weather events, people reach out to crisis lines to navigate their mental health because these events can be a tipping point in people’s wellness. “People feel more isolated, anxious, and overwhelmed. They’re feeling frayed, and climate change issues feel so much bigger than what they can take on, so their resources and coping strategies are shrinking, and relationships are feeling the strain,” Croggon explains. “The biggest resource crisis lines provide is listening, which might seem passive but being truly heard can de-escalate the situation and then we can work collaboratively with the caller to create a self-care plan.” Depending on the caller’s location, crisis line responders are also preparing the callers for upcoming evacuation notices and supporting them through their evacuation plan if a notice was already issued.

Crisis line volunteers and staff responders are under significant pressure from the increases in call volume and complexity, as well as going through the challenges of the pandemic, wildfires and the extreme weather events themselves. “We have an approach within crisis lines: How we do something is just as important as what we do. If our own people are burning out tending to the wellness and safety of others, then we are working at cross purposes with our mission,” says Croggon. BC crisis lines have initiated additional counselling support for volunteers and staff, as well as debriefing and training opportunities, and volunteers and staff are encouraged to take breaks whenever they are needed.

“There are many reasons why people reach out to crisis lines – we’re always grateful that they do.” Whether you are struggling with issues related to the current heat or wildfires in BC, crisis lines are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The BC Crisis Line Network, comprised of 10 local crisis centres from around BC, answers calls to 1-800-SUICIDE, 310-6789 Mental Health, and regional distress lines. The centres provide lifesaving crisis de-escalation services, suicide risk assessment, and strengths-based collaborative safety planning and follow-up.


Stacy Ashton, Crisis Centre of BC
Asha Croggon, Interior Crisis Lines
Elizabeth Newcombe, Vancouver Island Crisis Society
Thaddée Bergler, Fraser Health Crisis Line
Riley Skinner, Northern BC Crisis Centre


Stacy Ashton
Executive Director
Crisis Centre of BC

Jeffrey Preiss
Director, Development and Communications

What Is a Crisis? Defining How a Crisis Happens and How Crisis Lines Help

Posted July 12th, 2022

By: Lina Moskaleva

Have you ever been through a devastating breakup, received a warning letter at work, or had a family member die? Have you had a debilitating flare-up of a chronic pain condition, a dark spiral of negative self-talk, or a realization that you will soon need to retire? Have you had to wait for an evacuation order as a forest fire was spreading closer to your community? Experienced a hostile interaction? Failed a class in school?

People in these — or any other difficult and overwhelming situations — can find the support they need by calling a crisis line.

The term “crisis” gets used frequently, but is rarely defined. So what is a personal crisis? 

Crisis happens when the level of pain and distress a person is experiencing outweighs the effectiveness of their resources and coping strategies. This can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. 

A crisis can be sparked by any of life’s many stressors, regardless of whether they are ongoing or singular, internal or external. The stressors we encounter can cause us to feel confused, afraid, or guilty and can lead to an experience of crisis if our normal solutions and supports fail to help us cope with the situation.

Crisis is both a state of mind and a state of being so we feel its effects in a myriad of ways. We may go into fight-or-flight mode or freeze and be unable to move or think. We may feel hopeless, disoriented, agitated, distraught, numb, or angry, sometimes switching between feelings at the drop of a hat. Our perceptions can become altered and our memories distorted. It can be difficult to think straight and may feel as though our world has been turned upside down. Our actions and words may confuse or frustrate those around us.

Experiencing a crisis doesn’t necessarily mean you are also experiencing a mental illness. Anyone can be in crisis, including people who have psychiatric illnesses, those with mental health issues, and those who are generally healthy but find themselves in a difficult situation. 

A personal crisis can be a major turning point in someone’s life. Crucially — if the person doesn’t receive proper support — these acute events can trigger a cascade of compounding negative circumstances. Crisis begets crisis and situations can spiral out of control, putting the person further into precarity and making it that much harder to find a resolution.

During this time, what we need is for someone to recognize that we are in crisis, listen to us, and guide us back to feeling stable.

Just one phone call with a responder from one of the BC crisis lines can turn things around for someone in crisis. The crisis responder can help the caller get clarity about their situation, map out their resources, and — when they’re ready — make a plan for the next steps, all while offering warm and compassionate support. The crisis line responders can even provide follow-up phone calls; the work of crisis lines is not only emergency response, but also prevention of crisis escalation.

Crisis lines are available across British Columbia 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you or someone you know needs help, please call:

  • 1-800-SUICIDE
  • 310-6789 (mental health crisis line)

Crisis Lines Key Support During Disasters

Posted January 12th, 2022

By Oliver Lum with files from Monika Wodzianek

We experienced many natural disasters in British Columbia in 2021, and predictions about the future seem to indicate more will come our way.

Whether you are struggling with issues concerning your mental health or have been affected by flooding and wildfires, crisis lines across BC are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

During recent floods, heatwaves, forest fires, and exceptional cold, our volunteers aided British Columbians with information about emergency shelters and services and ensured that the people they connected with felt heard and supported.

“During any kind of natural disaster involving displacement, folks separated from one another, loss of property and livelihood, a whole raft of emergency services come into play. That’s excellent, and it’s also confusing if your whole life has turned upside down. What we’re specifically able to do is help people pinpoint and address their most current need, while scanning for emotional distress and suicide risk factors,” says Stacy Ashton, Executive Director of the Crisis Centre of BC. “We’re keenly aware it’s often easier to test the waters with a practical request, but with some empathy, you can quickly build the trust needed for someone to tell you their level of pain or fear or despair they might actually be experiencing.”

Crisis lines in BC work directly with the Health Emergency Management team at the Provincial Health Services Authority to make sure anyone working with people impacted by natural disasters are trained to recognize signs of mental distress and suicide. “We’re trying to up-skill call takers on other lines so that they know what looks like apathy or rage could be a sign of suicide, and that they can ask us to make outreach calls to folks they are worried about. This gives them practical skills that increase their confidence and compassion on the lines, and a concrete way to connect people to immediate help,” said Ashton.

It’s impossible to ignore the correlation between the recent disasters and the increase in call volume. The last three months of 2021 broke all previous records for the number of calls, peaking in October with over 9,000 inbound calls, almost double that of the previous October.

“When a natural disaster happens, such as a pandemic, the general anxiety level of the population increases, and that makes people with anxiety disorders even more vulnerable,” says Ashton. “Calls with folks we talk to regularly become more complex, more crisis-oriented, and more frequent because they have more anxiety to begin with. There is an increase in first-time callers and an increase in callers who we’ve been supporting long-term.”

Due to the increase in calls and connections being made, the crisis network resources have been limited, and people are unfortunately not getting the immediate attention that volunteers like to provide. “Which is completely unacceptable,” according to Ashton. “But that’s the limit of the resources we have right now.” 

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call:

  • Anywhere in BC 1-800-SUICIDE: 1-800-784-2433
  • Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789
  • Vancouver Coastal Regional Distress Line: 604-872-3311
  • Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
  • Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)

Almost Half of All People Who Rated Their Mental Health As Poor Would Be Unwilling To Call 911 During a Mental Health Crisis: Media Advisory for World Suicide Prevention Day

Posted August 31st, 2021

Who do British Columbians trust when they need crisis mental health support? We engaged InsightsWest to conduct an omnibus survey of British Columbians on the theme of trust as it relates to mental health crisis support.

Overall, British Columbians rated their local crisis line, the Provincial 1-800-SUICIDE line, the 310-6789 Mental Health line, and the 811 Nurse’s line as their most trusted resources in a mental health crisis, with each of these lines receiving the trust of over 80% of survey respondents. Trust in 911 and the Emergency Room was not far behind, with 75% of British Columbians trusting these resources in a mental health crisis.

The story changes when we take people’s ratings of their own current mental health into account. Almost half (44%) of all people who rated their mental health as poor would be unwilling to call 911 during a mental health crisis. 

In contrast, 72% of people who rated their mental health as good or excellent would trust their local crisis line. Further breakdowns of trust in resources amongst those with poor mental health include:

  • 310-6789 Mental Health Support Line (68% trust)
  • 811 – Nurses Line (67% trust)
  • Emergency Room/Urgent Care or 1-800-SUICIDE Line (tied at 63% trust) 
  • 211 – Information & Referral Line (49% trust)

Supporting those who need our help the most means offering services that people trust even when they’re feeling at their worst. A key fear for people who are in mental health crises is being taken to hospital against their will.

Both the local crisis line responders and the 1-800-SUICIDE and 310-6789 Mental Health Support Line responders work with callers to build safety plans that do not require police response or hospitalization. A full 98% of calls are resolved on the phone. Of the 2% that do require an intervention, half of those are with the full consent and cooperation of the caller. These calls take time, patience, and specialized crisis support skills.

Crisis centres across BC are vital to mental health crisis support. We are able to take the time that 911 cannot. Demand for our services remains high as the impact of COVID-19 on our mental health continues. While our current survey showed the overall mental health of British Columbians is better than last summer, we are still well below pre-COVID wellbeing numbers: 74% of those surveyed indicated good or excellent mental health compared to 61% last August and 85% pre-pandemic.

Incoming call volume to the Crisis Centre of BC hasn’t declined; in fact, over the past few months we have had some of the highest incoming call numbers since the pandemic began.


On September 10, 2021, World Suicide Prevention Day provides a unique opportunity to engage in a conversation about mental health crisis support in BC. There were 609 deaths by suicide in BC last year (down from 652 in 2019 – BC Coroners Service Suicide Data). Ensuring trust in the services provided is key to suicide prevention and ensuring mental health crisis support.


If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call:

  • Vancouver Coastal Regional Distress Line: 604-872-3311
  • Anywhere in BC 1-800-SUICIDE: 1-800-784-2433
  • Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789
  • Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
  • Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)


Stacy Ashton, Executive Director

Jeffrey Preiss, Director, Development and Communications



The Crisis Centre of BC is dedicated to providing help and hope to individuals, organizations, and communities. We offer:

  • Immediate access to barrier-free, non-judgemental, and confidential support as well as follow-up through our 24/7 phone lines and online services.
  • Education and training programs that promote mental wellness and equip schools, organizations, and communities to assist people at risk of suicide.

Additional Data Insights

When it comes to trust, the age of the caller matters. Only 61% of those aged 18-34 trust 911 services, while older British Columbians have a higher level of trust. Consistently, trust in suicide prevention and mental health crisis lines in BC averages 84% to 86%.

Data collected on Insight West’s BC Omnibus:

Results based on an online study conducted from August 18-20, 2021 among a representative sample of 830 adults in British Columbia. The margin of error for this data —which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies between totals are due to rounding.

Meeting Crisis at the Scale It Happens

Posted July 26th, 2021

By: Stacy Ashton

Crisis services in BC are not set up to meet the scale of the need in our communities. We are able to handle half as many calls and chats as needed, and that’s without marketing our lines to the 17% of British Columbians (based on a 2019 survey) who don’t know crisis lines exist. In a similar situation is 911: during the heatwave, 911 also couldn’t answer all their incoming calls.

The Crisis Centre of BC answered 43,269 calls and chats from people in distress in 2020/21. That’s a number worth celebrating.

We weren’t able, however, to answer another 39,793 calls. Some of those calls went to our overflow voicemail, and if the caller was able to leave a message, we called back. Some of those calls, made to1-800-SUICIDE or 310-6789 Mental Health, were redirected to a siblingcrisis centre in the province. Some callers hung up waiting for us to answer. Some chats didn’t get a reply.

When a person reaches out to a crisis centre, they are in crisis! The closest example to what it’s like might be dialing 911 — for that person, in their moment of crisis, there is an emergency that requires an immediate response. A crisis — like any natural disaster, medical emergency, or search and rescue operation — can’t be scheduled.

We celebrate the calls and chats we’ve been able to answer, but the weight of the calls and chats we can’t answer never leaves. For a truly accessible crisis system, let’s be measured and funded against the scale of the need.

Effective crisis response is available 24/7, on demand, and is easy to find when you need it. Managing crises well pays for itself, both in reduced suffering and reduced need for intensive mental health and police interventions.

We are able to de-escalate crisis situations 98% of the time without the need for further intervention from emergency services. This provides better care for those who reach out and decreases the need for emergency services to respond to situations that most often do not require them.

We have a good idea of the size of the need for crisis help in our community; it’s reflected in the total number of calls and chats that come in. The next step is to answer them.


If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call:

  • Vancouver Coastal Regional Distress Line: 604-872-3311
  • Anywhere in BC 1-800-SUICIDE: 1-800-784-2433
  • Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789
  • Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
  • Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)


A New Hope for a Better Tomorrow

Posted March 24th, 2021

By: Thomas Golka

Mila had moved to the Lower Mainland from rural Alberta just three short months ago. She was certain that accepting a new position and moving to the big city would be the fresh start she needed; however, she could have never anticipated that only one month after her move, she would find herself in isolation and lose her job.

Suddenly Mila had nothing to look forward to – her future looked grim.

Living in isolation and lockdown, Mila’s thoughts wandered to new places. She had her mother’s support, but it wasn’t enough. It was impossible for her to convey exactly how she was feeling; whenever they would speak on a video call she would have makeup on, style her hair, and put on her best fake smile…until recently. Mila felt like she had no strength left inside, and she broke down.

She could no longer pretend like the antidepressants were helping. Today, she decided death didn’t scare her. She finally told her mom she wanted everything to be over, and her mom pleaded with her to reach out for support from a crisis centre. Begrudgingly Mila agreed but made no promise that it would change her mind. Phone in one hand and pills in the other, Mila dialled 1-800-SUICIDE.

She heard Andre’s comforting voice say, “Hello. 1-800-SUICIDE. What’s going on for you today?” Mila thought carefully about the question before responding. Naturally, she wanted to put up her guard, but her emotions took over. She immediately burst into tears. There was so much she wanted to reveal but so little she felt like she could share with a stranger. Andre was patient and gave Mila the time she needed to collect herself.

Not knowing how to respond, Mila told Andre about the pills she was holding in her left hand. Andre told Mila to set the pills on the kitchen table and asked if it was possible for her to enter a different room while they spoke. Reluctantly, Mila agreed. Andre said, “Thank you for moving to the other room, this will give us some time to talk together without the pills so close by.”

Mila remained hesitant to open up to Andre. However, she liked the idea of someone holding her accountable and collaborating with her to make a plan.

For a split-second Mila felt relief and told Andre nothing brings her joy these days.

Andre explained that he was here for Mila, and this moment was all that mattered. The anxiousness that Mila was feeling at the beginning of the call turned into a feeling of freedom— freedom to convey all those thoughts she didn’t feel she could share with her mother, her roommate, or anyone else connected to her life.

Mila had been crying the entire day and was losing control of her breathing. Lying on her bed she leaned over to grab a tissue and wiped her face. She closed her eyes, inhaled, exhaled, and gathered herself; Andre was here, ready to listen without judgement.

Saying it all out loud felt good. Mila wasn’t “fixed,” but she felt a sense of relief. It was scary because she had not felt this way in a long time, but it felt right. The baggage of everything she had been holding felt a little less heavy.

Andre started by asking how they could work together to ensure she could get through the night. The two decided on giving all her pills to her roommate who would keep them out of Mila’s sight. Additionally, there would be a follow-up call from the crisis centre one hour later, to check in on both the safety plan with her roommate and on how Mila was doing.

While Mila is supported by a general practitioner who she finds helpful, COVID restrictions have added another layer of complications to receiving the support she needs. Her past few scheduled meetings left her feeling unmotivated and lacking energy.

Part of Andre’s safety planning with Mila was to ensure she arranged a follow-up appointment with her doctor and got a referral to mental health services. She feels differently about attending this one thanks to Andre. Mila told Andre it wasn’t her idea to call the suicide line, but she was glad she did.

When Mila hung up she felt something inside her she hadn’t felt in what seemed like forever – hope. Hope to get through the night, and hope for a better tomorrow.

She knew she had a long way to get where she needed to be, but she had some sense of clarity now. The light at the end of the tunnel was becoming brighter.

If you or someone you know is struggling, especially with thoughts of suicide, reach out:

  • Vancouver Coastal Regional Distress Line: 604-872-3311
  • Anywhere in BC 1-800-SUICIDE: 1-800-784-2433
  • Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789
  • Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
  • Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)

* This story is a fictionalized account based on call/chat reports. The identities of those involved have been changed to ensure confidentiality of our services.

Tears of Relief: Crisis Centre. What’s Going On for You Today?

Posted February 26th, 2021

By: Rudi Araujo

It was just another day in the Lower Mainland. The skies were gray, the rain came down and gently touched the ground. It was cold but not too cold. Melissa was alone at home, sitting on the couch looking at the tiny people walking up and down the street through her apartment window.

She was trying to read a novel, but couldn’t concentrate. Her mind started wandering. First, she thought about the cartoons she used to watch on her family’s old TV;  “Inspector Gadget”was her favourite. Growing up wasn’t always easy, but Melissa tried to hold onto special moments, like watching TV at home while her mum baked cookies. Then Sam came to her mind. They are the best partner Melissa could have ever asked for. Her partner is her rock.

All of a sudden Melissa started sweating. She wasn’t sure if she was hot or cold. The hair on her arms and the back of her neck stood up. There was this feeling that something was stuck in his throat and breathing seemed harder. Melissa began to think about work, family, friends, bills. Anxiety has been her closest companion for years and one that just wouldn’t leave her alone, especially in the last couple of months. She began thinking, “Why does everything need to happen at the same time?”

Melissa was overwhelmed with a feeling of danger and doom. Was she really going to hurt herself this time…or worse? She honestly didn’t know. She felt unsafe. Melissa hoped that a visit to the hospital would help. While waiting to be seen by a doctor, she heard a nurse whisper, “She can’t just threaten to kill herself to get what she wants”. Melissa put her head down and cried. No one was listening to her.

She left the hospital and walked quickly to the SkyTrain station—there was that sweating and struggling to breathe again. Melissa was desperate to make it stop and felt the urge to jump. This would end it all—no more sadness, no more desperation. She would finally be free. Three deep breaths. She was shaking and still sweating but was able to pick up the emergency phone and was met by transit authorities. Another agonizing hospital visit, but this time she stayed. However, because The hospital was in a neighbouring city, they told her they couldn’t do much as she lived in a different health authority area. Melissa didn’t know she still had tears to be cried, but tears streamed down her face. She went home, feeling desperately sad and hopelessly alone.

Melissa went straight into the kitchen. Sam was working from home that day and heard their partner going through the drawers; they were in a meeting and couldn’t say hello. Melissa went to the bathroom, sat on the floor, and with a small knife and cut her arm. This was pain she could see and control.  From deep within her body came an exasperated sob. Sam leapt from their desk and rushed to Melissa’s side. The wounds on her arm were superficial and Sam was able to stop the bleeding, but couldn’t do anything to help with Melissa’s emotional wounds.

Melissa felt she had tried everything but knew she needed help. She needed to feel heard. She had an insight and thought she knew who could listen to her. At first, she felt disoriented and couldn’t think straight. As someone who had been dealing with anxiety and depression for so many years, Melissa was able to stop and breathe. Mindfulness exercises always seemed like a privilege of those who have lots of free time, but it was a powerful tool. She talked to Sam, and they went online and found the Crisis Centre number. Melissa called, and Sam stayed by her side the whole time.

“Crisis Centre. What’s going on for you today?”

Melissa took another deep breath. She was still unsure about this call. She knew she needed help, but what could she say to a random person on the phone? She kept quiet.

“Hello? This is Amanda. You can talk to me. I know you called for a reason and I am here for you.

In a calm and welcoming voice, Amanda, the crisis service responder, said what Melissa wanted to hear. Someone was available to listen. Melissa spoke and Amanda heard her. She told her everything that had happened in the last 24 hours. 

Melissa explained how whenever she needed help, she would contact the mental health system but was told she was no longer eligible for their services since he moved to another city. She started contacting other local services but all she felt was frustration. Melissa really wanted to talk to a psychiatrist so she could still get treatment with the province’s extended health provider, but someone told her they couldn’t refer her to one. The past two months had been hard; a lot had happened. Melissa’s general practitioner told her to go back on medication, but antipsychotics made her feel depressed and suicidal. Her GP wasn’t listening and insisted that no medication would make her feel worse than she already was. She had been to hospitals but had mostly had negative experiences. It was like Melissa had been moving forward before, but now all she could see was a big dark hole in front of her, and she didn’t know what to do.

Melissa was scared that without a psychiatrist she would lose her disability, and would likely kill herself. She didn’t have a set plan but had almost taken action many times. In the midst of all the feelings, Melissa has always been able to call intervention before acting.

“It’s feeling like you’re falling through the cracks and nobody is taking your pain seriously,” said Amanda. 

“She took the words right out of my mouth,” Melissa thought. At first, she was hesitant because Amanda was a complete stranger, but ultimately she felt this was a safe place. The sweating had stopped. It was good to get it all out of her system and talk about her feelings. Amanda seemed knowledgeable and was a great help. Together they explored what supports Melissa had in place already –her partner, Sam, and a counsellor. Amanda invited Melissa to reach out to the Crisis Centre whenever she needed to talk.

The shared emotional connection was very helpful. Melissa felt welcomed and decided that from then on, whenever she was feeling suicidal, she would call the Crisis Centre before calling 911. She was relieved. It felt like she was finally headed towards something positive. She knew her path would still be tortuous, but now she had more support. After the call ended, Melissa began to cry. This was the first time in a long time that Melissa’s tears were of relief.  

If you or someone you know is struggling, especially with thoughts of suicide, reach out: 

  • Vancouver Coastal Regional Distress Line: 604-872-3311
  • Anywhere in BC 1-800-SUICIDE: 1-800-784-2433
  • Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789
  • Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
  • Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)

* This story is a fictionalized account based on call/chat reports. The identities of those involved have been changed to ensure confidentiality of our services.

Making a Plan To Get Through Tonight

Posted February 26th, 2021

By: Chelsea Carter

In the dim light of her desk lamp, Elise picks up her pen, hands shaking. She tried her best, but she just doesn’t see how things will get better. This pandemic isn’t going anywhere and all the adults keep saying it will get better if they follow the rules, but things just keep getting worse.

Once an honour roll student, Elise has fallen so far behind in her last year of high school that she wasn’t sure if she would be able to catch up. She’s sick of being confused and lost in class or handing in assignments late because of poor internet access at her house. At first, she tried using her phone to follow along instead, but she wound up going over her data limit. Her parents thought she was on TikTok and yelled at her for wasting money. She tried to explain but they wouldn’t listen. Elise broke down in tears.

Elise is sick of trying so hard and getting nowhere. She misses her friends, but she is worried about getting COVID-19 or bringing it home because her diabetic mom is high-risk. She hasn’t seen her friends at all since the summer. But, if she’s honest, she doesn’t really want her friends to know her family moved into a basement suite when her mom lost her job. Elise is sick of hearing her parents fight, the noise of her upstairs neighbours boots, and seeing the neighbour’s fence through the windows. She barely leaves their suite these days, and sometimes she thinks she’s forgotten what the sky looks like.

If this is what “living” is then living might not be for her.

She touches pen to paper but actually writing the note is a lot harder than she thought it would be. Her hand shakes worse as she thinks of her parents reading her final goodbye. She is shaking so much now she loses control of her hand and the pen. It falls and rolls to the edge of her desk over a pile of forgotten papers. A yellow flyer her school handed out back in October catches her eye under the pen. Most of the kids just threw it out but she had kept it just in case.

Elise sniffs and dries her eyes with the back of her favourite sweater; Mickey Mouse smiles mockingly on the front, a memory of their trip to Disneyland for Christmas, before the world shut down. She picks up the flyer and contemplates the number, looking between it and her phone.

It was past midnight. Elise couldn’t call her friends—they hadn’t been speaking as much lately. No one had even commented on her last Instagram post. They wouldn’t understand and she didn’t want to burden them with her problems anyway. Everyone seems to be struggling.

Instead of finding her lost pen, Elise picks up the phone and dials the crisis line number on the flyer. She starts thinking about hanging up when someone answers the phone, “Hello, Crisis Centre.”

At first Elise is unsure what to say when Jen asks her what’s going on with her tonight. Elise sniffs and responds, “I just didn’t know who else to call. I was just feeling really overwhelmed…” She is not sure what else to say. Jen kindly asks her questions, getting her to expand on what has made her feel this way. It’s the first time Elise has felt connected to someone else in a while like she is finally being heard without judgment. She looks at the note on her desk with Dear Mom and Dad written on the top. Something inside her bursts.

She begins to tell Jen everything she’s been feeling for the past few months. She is talking a mile a minute, and she’s not even sure if Jen can understand her through her tears. Jen tries to slow her down, gently interjecting to ask questions and getting Elise to take a breath. It helps. Elise starts to slow down and catch her breath. It feels nice to finally open up to someone; she feels like the weight she’s been carrying around for so long is getting a little lighter.

Talking to Jen isn’t how she imagined calling the Crisis Centre would be. It is a lot easier and less embarrassing she feels…relieved. Jen helps Elise feel like what she has been feeling is okay and helps her realize she isn’t the only one feeling this way—a lot of people are struggling. These are hard times. Jen asks Elise if she feels comfortable making a plan so that she can stay safe tonight.

Elise holds the phone to her ear, nods her head, and whispers “that sounds good.” Her shaking has subsided.

Elise looks at the small orange bottle of antidepressants she stole from her parents’ medicine cabinet. The ones she had planned on swallowing. With Jen’s help, she puts them in another room, out of sight. They decide she will talk to her parents and let them know what she was thinking and how she’s been feeling. She will ask them to keep the bottle hidden while they work on a longer-term plan. Jen offers to stay on the line, but they decide instead that Jen will call back in a bit to check-in with her to make sure everything is going all right. Even just knowing that Jen is going to check-in helps Elise feel better.

Calmer now, Elise puts down the phone and lets out a slow breath. She grabs the bottle and gets up, padding down the dark hall. She pauses outside her parents’ door, then slowly pushes it open. Her parents are shocked, and her mom even cries a bit, but they listen,. They believe her. Everything isn’t magically fixed, but Elise doesn’t feel as hopeless anymore. With Jen’s help, she has made a plan to get through tonight, and with some more help she can make a plan to get through the rest.

If you or someone you know is struggling, especially with thoughts of suicide, reach out:

  • Vancouver Coastal Regional Distress Line: 604-872-3311
  • Anywhere in BC 1-800-SUICIDE: 1-800-784-2433
  • Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789
  • Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
  • Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)


* This story is a fictionalized account based on call/chat reports. The identities of those involved have been changed to ensure confidentiality of our services.

Then Giggles

Posted February 3rd, 2021

By Stacy Ashton, Executive Director

Things without arms and without legs by Liz Argall is one of my favourite web comics, and this strip is my favourite one of all.

“I would like to be angry, then sad, then comforted, then adventure for solutions, then giggles” is probably the best description of how to support someone in crisis, but more importantly, it’s what the person in crisis has asked for.

In this time of shared stress, we lean on our friends and family, but we are also aware that our friends and family are also struggling. Often friends and family think they need to solve problems to feel they’ve helped, even though many pandemic crises will be solved over time and we mostly need comfort from one another to help us get through.

On the crisis lines, we assume you want comfort first, and help finding solutions when you ask for it. When you are reaching out to loved ones for support or they are reaching out to you, the question “are you looking for comfort or solutions?” frees up the space to get and give the right kind of support.

Expressing painful emotions without the requirement to solve them can immediately open you up to feel unexpected moments of peace and joy—even the giggles. Ending a call with humour is not unusual on the crisis lines. There’s a reason why many of the “next steps” identified by callers as being helpful include watching comedy. “Then giggles” offers pathways to accept what you can’t immediately change, and energy to change what you can.

Crisis Response is Not Counselling

Posted November 4th, 2020

By Stacy Ashton, Executive Director

At some point in our 51+ year history, there were questions raised about what to call the volunteers who answered our phones. “Crisis Counsellor” was one of the options proposed. 

I thought that was a good idea when I was volunteering on the lines—mostly because I was applying to a Masters of Counselling program and figured the title “Crisis Counsellor” could only help my chances of admission.

Now, however, I’ve played both roles: the person answering the crisis line, and the counsellor working with clients who are experiencing suicidal thoughts or recovering from a suicide attempt. Now I understand what counselling is, and it’s not the same as crisis response. 

Here’s the basic rule of thumb: if you schedule it, it’s counselling. A crisis, on the other hand, can’t be scheduled; when you reach out in a crisis, counselling isn’t exactly what you need. 

When we are in a crisis state, our minds and bodies go into a reaction mode. You’ve likely heard this a million times—I first learned about it in grade school with a cartoon they showed in class. Fight, flight, or freeze—each option requires a lot of energy as your body gets ready to stop thinking and start reacting.

Acting without thinking can get us into a lot of trouble. When you find yourself overwhelmed by intense emotion— which can sometimes feel like intense numbness—talking to someone who will just listen is how you turn your reaction back into thought. 

Counselling is really helpful in sorting out what to do next in your life. If you are facing a choice, if past events in your life are still painful, if something has happened that changes everything, if you are stuck and beating yourself up over it, or if you feel stuck and angry at other people or the world, counselling can help you think the situation through and find a resolution. 

Crisis response is about getting you back into your thinking mind. Counselling is most helpful when you are ready to think. 

If you call the Crisis Centre of BC–anytime, 24/7–you won’t be talking to a “Crisis Counsellor.” You’ll be talking to a skilled, valued, and aptly-named Crisis Service Responder.

  • Vancouver Coastal Regional Distress Line: 604-872-3311
  • Anywhere in BC 1-800-SUICIDE: 1-800-784-2433
  • Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789
  • Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
  • Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)

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Our Impact The topic and word "suicide" is not so scary after taking a training from the Crisis Centre of BC. I'm grateful to have been here today, and am hopeful that I can help people in the future. safeTALK participant, Agassiz