CMHA Cariboo Chilcotin Branch weathering wildfire impacts

CMHA Cariboo Chilcotin Branch weathering wildfire impacts

CMHA is in need of more crisis line counsellors

The summer’s wildfires have impacted the Canadian Mental Health Association in more ways than one.

Executive director Janice Breck told the Tribune this week there is a six-week to see a counsellor, which is causing stress to clients and staff.

“When people are distressed and stressed out dealing with residual issues from the fires, it creates a lot of stress in the home, and they don’t want to hear, when they want an appointment with a counsellor, that it’s going to take six weeks,” Breck told the Tribune. “It is hard on the counsellors too because they can only do so much as well.”

Before the summer’s wildfires the wait to see a counsellor at CMHA was already about four weeks, so it isn’t surprising the need has increased.

“The wildfires had a tremendous impact on people’s mental health,” Breck said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, it creates a lot of stress and uncertainty for everyone. No one is exempt.”

Breck noted people have been surprised by their own reactions and she encouraged people to make sure they are talking to someone.

Presently there are four counsellors on staff: two in the family solutions program, working with youth and families and two in the crisis and counselling program, working with adults and running the crisis line.

“We are in desperate need of crisis line workers,” Breck said. “We lost one that didn’t return from the fires, some went on stress leave right after the fires with health issues because of the smoke. We’ve been down in our volunteers as well and really need volunteers.”

Crisis line training for volunteers will take place again in March and anyone interested is encouraged to call 250-398-8220 or picking up an application at the office, which is located at 51 Fourth Ave. South.

Volunteers manning the line do go to an undisclosed location, and those answering calls in Williams Lake are part of the Interior network and answer calls from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

The training is excellent, Breck said.

“It is a six-week program over two nights a week, or one day a week. It is an awesome way to give back to the community to help others.”

On Wednesday Breck was tallying up orders for a Valentine’s Day chocolate fundraiser, and recently wrapped up a cash raffle, all efforts to supplement the gaming grant the branch receives.

Throughout the year, CMHA puts on different events, including Beyond the Blues, which will take place in October during Mental Illness Awareness Week.

In 2018, CMHA will celebrate 100 years nation-wide. It was founded on Jan. 26, 1918 by Dr. Clarence M. Hincks and Clifford W. Beers as the Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene. Hincks was very interested in the field because of his own experience with mental illness.

During the year, Breck said the local branch will host some events to help mark the milestone.

Breck has worked at CMHA for 18 years in different capacities before taking on the role of executive director in the fall of 2017.