Cher Sytsma is a councillor with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Cariboo-Chilcotin branch and the supervisor of the CMHA’s crisis line here in Williams Lake. Starting April 2 Systsma is inviting members of the community to partake in free training that will allow them to man the crisis line moving forward. Patrick Davies Photo

Watch: CMHA looking for new crisis line operators

Training sessions for interested volunteers available starting April 2

The local Canadian Mental Health Association Cariboo Chilcotin branch is looking for volunteers to man their crisis line.

This call is being put out by Cher Sytsma, a councillor with the CMHA and the supervisor of the CMHA’s crisis line. Sytsma said that they are once again looking for any volunteers willing to take the crisis training they offer, for free to volunteers, twice a year. Others interested in taking the training for their own purposes with no intention of manning the crisis line can also do so for $200.

Read More: CMHA Cariboo Chilcotin Branch weathering wildfire impacts

Training will run from April 2 to May 9, three hours Tuesdays and Thursdays, and is very comprehensive, Sytsma said. Everything one would need to know, including how to deal with a suicide call, will be covered in the course of the training. Sytsma herself has undergone the training and has facilitated the teaching of it four times, counting this upcoming session.

“We give (trainees) the opportunity to sit in with a veteran caller and hear the calls being answered, get a feel for the computer system,” Sytsma said. “Once you’re comfortable with that, you can move on to a solo shift, so you’re not just thrown into the deep end of the pool right away.”

Anyone is welcome to volunteer and take these lessons, Sytsma said, including individuals who may struggle with their own mental health concerns. Part of the training will be self-care and focused on how to look after and deal with your own mental health during and after calls.

“We all are touched by mental illness and mental health in some way,” Sytsma said.

Read More: Upcoming CMHA workshop tackles mental illness

Prospective volunteers will, according to Sytsma, potentially be filling four-hour shifts on the phones from Monday to Saturday after training and a criminal background check is complete. In addition to the Williams Lake area, Sytsma said the crisis line is networked in with other communities in B.C. including Kelowna and Vernon who will answer the lines if need be. The crisis lines they answer include 1-800-SUICIDE, 310-Mental Health (310-6789) and their own crisis line at 1-888-353-2273.

“Having somebody at the other end of that phone can save somebody’s life. We’ve been through a lot, our community, in the last few years and we’ve come through it, we’ve been resilient and I think we’ve recognized we need each other. (Volunteering for the crisis line) is just one way to fill that need,” Sytsma said.

The CMHA is located just across from Safeway on 4th Ave right beside the Women’s Contact Society’s office.

Applications for this training can be made in person at the CMHA’s office or online via their website Anyone looking for more information can call Sytsma at 250-398-8220.

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