Coronavirus: As case counts climb, London-area crisis centre sees influx of calls

With the COVID-19 pandemic overtaking nearly every facet of daily life, more and more London-area residents are turning to local crisis centres for help getting through this challenging time.

At the Middlesex arm of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), calls to its crisis support line have risen by 50 per cent over the last two weeks, with calls to its volunteer-run supportive listening line up 43 per cent, according to the agency’s director of crisis services and short-term interventions.

“I think when this was all happening, we did expect that we may have more people reaching out who are in crisis or in distress. But certainly it’s been even higher than we expected,” said Lori Hassall in an interview Monday with Global News Radio 980 CFPL’s Devon Peacock.

“I am glad that people are reaching out, that they know where to call and that supports are available because it’s a tough time for our whole community.”

Its main crisis line, staffed by agency workers trained in crisis intervention and mental health and addictions services, offers immediate support or information to those who need it, while its volunteer-run line offers supportive listening to callers who may be feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

Both operate around the clock, seven days a week, with the heaviest call times being between mid-morning and mid-evening, Hassall said.

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“We do get calls in the middle of the night. People who maybe can’t sleep and are feeling anxious and overwhelmed and just want to talk to someone.”

With some of the agency’s services on hold or reduced temporarily, such as those offered in the community, Hassall says staff members from those areas have been redeployed to the crisis line to help respond to more calls.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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