Volunteer crisis line operators are in short supply at the Vancouver Island Crisis Society (VICS). The VICS is presently taking applications for their next training session, which begins April 28, with the final deadline for applications being April 21.

Training offered by the crisis line is extensive, and covers a wide variety of topics, including mental illness, grief, suicide, working with Aboriginal populations, and providing extended context and understanding that is extremely valuable.

The society operates in Nanaimo and offers services all over Vancouver Island, and even to parts of BC’s mainland. While educational programs are offered through the society, a major part of their offered services come in the form of the crisis line. Operators provide short-term emotional support and resources to those who find themselves in need.

How many of us have needed that voice—that beacon in our lowest moments? That is what this line provides, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In order to ensure the continued support of those who need it, the line is chiefly operated by volunteers.

“Our volunteers know what it means to struggle and find meaning for their own lives, being there for support,” said Heather Owen, Community Relations Co-Ordinator for VICS. “Sometimes, that’s all it takes to turn thoughts of suicide around and save a life.”

A volunteer on the lines told the Nanaimo News Bulletin in March, “Helping others is a great way to help yourself, [and] I know for a fact we are saving people’s lives,” which is a clear demonstration of the line’s importance.

As a volunteer on the crisis lines for well over a year now, I won’t pretend that the work is not challenging, but it is also extremely rewarding. The line provides an essential service, and without people to answer those calls, it becomes impossible for the line to provide that service. Calls I’ve received have ranged from people dealing with loneliness to people coping with suicidal thoughts and actions. My time there has not only allowed me to be present for people who deeply needed someone to be there, but also to understand the complexities involved in each person’s circumstance. No two people experience life in the same way, and knowing that helps me both professionally and personally.

To say that the line has been a positive experience would be an understatement; more accurate would be to say that my time on the line has changed my life in a very fundamental way, and I deeply encourage anyone who thinks this might be a good fit for them to seek out the opportunity. Plus, volunteer hours may be a way to achieve educational or career goals; for example, I’m using it to fulfill my volunteer hours for my social work program. The process is quite simple—you submit an application, meet for an interview, and then begin a training program.

For more information, you can find a link to the application at vicrisis.ca.

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