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ROBERT CLARK SINGS FOR YOU AND THE CHRISTMAS BUREAU

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Alberta

‘Dealing with a lot:’ Suicide crisis calls mount during COVID-19 pandemic

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CALGARY — Hannah Storrs has needed to take more breaks than usual during her shifts on a 24-hour crisis line as the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies the struggles of those reaching out for help.

Distress Centre Calgary says suicide-related calls, texts and chats were up 66 per cent in October compared with the same month in 2019.

Of the more than 4,800 interactions last month, nearly one-quarter dealt with suicide. That could mean someone contemplating ending his or her life or an attempt in progress.

“We’re seeing it more back-to-back rather than the odd one here and there that is more intense,” says Storrs, the centre’s crisis team lead.

“People are dealing with a lot right now. They’re dealing with isolation. They’re dealing with mental health issues. They’re dealing with financial issues on top of being just scared of what can happen in the world.”

Storrs says calls, where there is an imminent risk, are in the minority and emergency services are only called in rare cases. Most often she and her colleagues help people develop a plan that will get them through the moment.

The work is more emotionally draining now than it was before the pandemic, she says. She makes sure to take breaks to calm herself after tough calls — something the centre encourages along with extra debriefing time.

“We can’t help other people if we’re not helping ourselves first, especially being on the lines.”

She says she didn’t realize it was taking a toll until she found herself feeling frustrated and ruminating about calls after work, wondering what more she could have done to help.

It has also been physically exhausting.

“Honestly, after a shift, I would just have to go take a nap. I’d be tired.”

Diane Jones Konihowski, the distress centre’s director of fund development and communications, says suicide-related calls were also rising over the summer, which was a concern because it was still nice outside.

“We assume that those numbers and percentages are going to go up as we get into — 20 C, we get into the ice and snow, where people are really not going out as much as they normally do.”

The Canada Suicide Prevention Service, a national network of crisis lines, says there’s been a 200 per cent increase in calls and texts between October 2019 and the same month this year.

People in crisis call a centralized line, which routes them to a distress centre in their community.

While volumes have gone up, there has not been a parallel rise in “active rescues” that require emergency intervention, says Dr. Allison Crawford, the service’s chief medical officer.

The service has added backup responders to deal with the surge, added Crawford, who is also a psychiatrist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

Between 15 and 20 per cent of those reaching out during the pandemic have mentioned COVID-19, though the service doesn’t keep track of more specific virus-related contacts.

Crawford says that is likely to mirror the results of a series of surveys the Toronto-based centre and technology company Delvinia have done throughout the pandemic.

The most recent one with more than 1,000 respondents in September found about one-fifth were experiencing moderate to severe anxiety, loneliness and depression.

Eighteen per cent said they were very worried about their finances and 26 per cent said they were very worried about contracting COVID-19, or someone close to them getting sick.

Research has shown that historically there’s a link between economic downturns and increased suicides, Crawford says.

But it’s too soon to know the toll the pandemic and its associated economic strife have taken.

“We know that we’re seeing this increase in calls. We don’t yet know whether we’re experiencing an increase in actual completed suicides. There’s no evidence to this point to suggest that.”

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: Online crisisservicescanada.ca. Phone 1-833 456-4566. Text — 45645 (4 p.m. to 12 a.m. ET)

Distress Centre Calgary: Online distresscentre.com. Phone 403-266-HELP (4357)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec 3, 2020.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Alberta RCMP launches initiative to showcase positive stories

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From Alberta RCMP

In order to connect with Albertans in a new capacity, the Alberta RCMP has launched the @Albertarcmpgrc Instagram account!

Through branching out on another platform, the Alberta RCMP wants to reach more Albertans, connecting with the people we serve so in turn, they can connect with us. The Alberta RCMP is committed to providing all of the communities where we live and work with policing services that they expect and deserve.

We are proud to serve all of the communities in our jurisdictions, both rural and urban, and we are proud of the many employees who make our organization what it is today. Alberta RCMP employees are a part of the communities they serve and they are proud of the many community activities, initiatives and groups they are a part of. Instagram will give us an opportunity to showcase the great relationships we are privileged to be a part of, both on and off duty.  Alberta is where we live, work, and raise our families, and we are excited to highlight many of the great things we are a part of and see here in the province.

“There’s so much happening day-to-day in the communities across Alberta that has such a positive impact on not only the citizens we serve, but our employees in all areas of our police service.“ said Deputy Commissioner Zablocki, Commanding Officer of the Alberta RCMP, “I’m happy to be able to share with Albertans what our employees are involved with, the passion they have to serve communities, and to learn about how all levels of the Alberta RCMP are working together with citizens to make their communities resilient, safe and secure.”

Followers can expect to see a continuation of campaigns such as #WhereWeWork, #CommunityMembers, and various stories about the locations that our employees call home. We will not post public safety messaging on Instagram due to the platform’s inability to easily share content.

Our first post is live and features a video showcasing our long history in Alberta, the beautiful sprawling landscape where we are proud to work, and our partnerships throughout the province.

The Alberta RCMP looks forward to connecting with all Albertans and hearing their thoughts and suggestions for Alberta’s policing needs.

Connect with the Alberta RCMP directly on Facebook @RCMPAlberta, Twitter @RCMPAlberta and now, on Instagram @RCMPAlbertaGRC.

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