A Warm Line provides a warm shoulder during COVID-19

By: Allie Murchison, Red Cross communications advisor
Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, mental health has been at the forefront as the disruption to regular life and routines has many people feeling trapped and isolated in their own home.
 Person on phone
In southwestern Nova Scotia, the Shelburne County Mental Health & Wellness Association is helping by offering a Warm Line for people in distress. It’s a non-crisis telephone support service where peers help peers. Staff have all been trained or have personally experienced trauma that they themselves are willing to share. Primarily there to listen, peers offer compassion and validation to callers, helping them to develop new coping skills.
“We provide short-term emotional support for loneliness, isolation, grief, anxiety, depression, whatever is on the mind of the caller,” said Cindy Hagen, Shelburne County Warm Line Coordinator. “There is no limit on how many times a caller can contact us. Every call is treated as they would be the first time, with the same resources, compassion and care.”
During the initial influx of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, the Warm Line had two workers maintaining the system for three months. “They were able to keep the Warm Line open 4 hours every day, 7 days a week,” said Hagen. “However due to isolation measures and lack of technology, our other workers were unable to help out.”
Now, with funding from the Government of Canada distributed by the Canadian Red Cross, the Shelburne County Mental Health & Wellness Association is able to offer new services to its Warm Line along with a more flexible approach.
“We are so excited about this funding,” said Hagen. “This enables us to add a texting component to our service which would target the large group of people who only text when seeking help. This will also give us the option of having all of our Warm Line staff work from home during inclement weather and during a potential second wave of COVID-19.
“Our staff and volunteers say, ‘You need to look after your mental health to stay healthy’, so having this resource available in our community is crucial for the well-being and health of everyone.
“Without your help we wouldn’t be able to increase our community outreach. Thank you.”
To learn more about the Warm Line, visit the Shelburne County Mental Health Association.
The Canadian Red Cross is funding the continuation of this work thanks to the generous support of the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund granting program.

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