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Celebrating Ontario's special volunteers

April 2009

In this Issue

2009 Spirit of
Volunteerism Awards

New Learnings from
the AAS Conference

Visiting Distress
Centres across Ontario









































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2009 Spirit of Volunteerism Awards 

Throughout Ontario, Distress Centres provide support to people in crisis and in need of an accepting, empathetic ear so that no one need suffer in silence.

Distress Centre phone lines are maintained by many wonderful volunteers and we would like to honour all of our volunteers and our nominees for the 2009 Spirit of Volunteerism Award, given in memory of the Reverend Chad Varah.

The following nominees for this year's award have provided 98 years of service combined - an outstanding level of commitment to the Distress Line movement!

Nicole Cabral - Distress Centre Durham

Carol Edgar - Distress Centres Toronto (Downtown)

Leslie Evans - Distress Centre Peel

Bill Jarvis - Distress Centre Toronto (Downtown)

Marc LaChance - Telecare Distress Centre (Brampton)

Jennifer Lindley - Distress Centre Niagara

Christine Moore - Oakville Distress Centre

Marilyn Oldham - North Halton Distress Centre

Sandy Small Proudfoot - Community Torchlight, TeleCheck Dufferin

Harpreet Priya Sandhu - Telecare Distress Centre (Brampton)

Cindy Slavik - Distress Centre of Windsor-Essex

Faren Hale Vokey - Telecare Distress Centre (Brampton)

Nicholas White - Distress Centres Toronto (North branch)

Please see our website for a special issue of e-News + Views to learn more about these amazing Spirit of Volunteerism nominees and their pledge to Ontarians in need.

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New Learnings from the AAS Conference

San Francisco, California was the location for the 42nd annual conference of the American Association of Suicidology.  With an attendance of over 350 people, the conference offered significant information on the science of prevention, treatment and recovery from suicide. 

A special Crisis Centers conference stream allowed crisis and distress centres from throughout the continent the opportunity to network and learn from each other.  Several of the session providers have agreed to provide web-cast presentations to DCO membership so that a broader group within Ontario can benefit from their experiences.

Crisis Centre follow-up with Suicidal Persons

Follow-up after suicide attempts or other acute suicidal episodes is emerging as a crucial but under utilized suicide prevention strategy.  Research has demonstrated that there is significant risk for reoccurrence of suicidal thoughts and behaviour in the weeks and months following an Inpatient discharge, an Emergency department discharge or following calls made by suicidal callers to suicide prevention hotlines.

Distress (and crisis) lines can play an important role through follow-up and help meet this critical and important, yet often unmet, need.  Many crisis centres in the USA who receive national mental health funding are receiving special suicide prevention follow-up grants to support their follow-up programs.  Working groups are examining best-practices for following at risk callers.

Model for Collaboration - Crisis Centres and other Community Crisis and Emergency Services

Inter-agency collaborations are the norm in many jurisdictions.   Formalizing those collaborations beyond the local level is an initiative pursued by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Specifically the establishment of a standard operating procedure that could enhance communications between local crisis lines and 911 call centres and even emergency departments nation-wide. 

In northern California, a pilot program was developed to enhance the collaborations amongst local service providers.  Individuals that are discharged from a local inpatient facility following admission for suicidal ideation/behaviours are provided with follow up support calls from the local crisis line for one month post discharge.  Initial findings speak to the success of such a venture when looking at the safety of the individual, but also address the challenges faced by smaller community agencies in engaging larger institutional partners.

Customer Service Orientation - Developing and Evaluating a Standard of Excellence in a suicide hotline

A west-coast suicide hotline has worked on improving program services through an emphasis on developing a customer service orientation and a silent monitoring program.  They initially developed goals, tools and introduced key customer service concepts to staff and volunteers. Then they implemented and measured the changes to their service delivery model.  The results were qualitative improvement to their program services and customer service ratings. 

The concept of Customer Service as it applies to mental health crisis/suicide hotlines is often a controversial one.  Many myths and prejudices exist that require a dedicated process to dispel, and it is very important to instil and maintain a strong customer service orientation culture among staff and volunteers if such a program is to succeed.

The program leaders of this initiative will be sharing their service improvement journey with the DCO membership via a future web-cast.  They will be addressing their theoretical framework, how they developed their organizational strategy, the measurement tools used during implementation and for program evaluation.  They will also describe how they designed a silent monitoring evaluation process (based on AAS Quality Assurance best-practice tools) that is a qualitative, standardized measuring and evaluation to that helps ensure quality client contacts.

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Visiting Distress Centres across Ontario

Executive Director, Liz Fisk, visits with distress centres and distress and crisis lines across the province each year.  It is a rewarding and enriching activity where Liz has the opportunity to learn about the unique culture and visions of each centre, and also sees the similarities that are shared by DCO member centres.

April 23, 2009 - Brampton, Ontario

The Atrium at Brampton City Hall was the site of a wonderful multi-cultural event highlighting the introduction of Mandarin and Cantonese Distress Lines through Telecare Distress Centre in the Peel region. 

Over eighty people started the evening by singing the Canadian national anthem.  Though the rendition was not exactly resounding, as a Canadian whose first language is not English, I was brought to tears.  In the room were Canadians from many different cultures and they all sang Oh Canada with determination and an accent that provided an insight into their heritage.

Telecare Distress Centres is a tribute to the diversity of Canada and the way that services can be harmoniously integrated if the effort is made. The centre launched crisis lines in Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu in 2005 and in Spanish and Portuguese in November 2007.  These crisis lines are staffed by native speakers of the language Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm.    

At the launch, the representative of the Consul General of PR China spoke of the need to provide mental health and social support services to Chinese immigrants in their native languages.  Often in their culture, there is shame associated with mental health issues and suicide and a confidential and anonymous resource like the Telecare Distress line is appreciated.

The attendees at the launch were entertained by martial arts displays from the Milton Chinese Arts Society and the Quoc Wai Kung Fu School.  There were also native dancing presentation by the Red Shoes Dance Studio who performed the Uygur Dance - from the west of China famous for its Tian Mountains, deserts and oasis; and the Mongolian Dance - by a group of women dressed in splendid Mongolian attire. 

I felt the excitement of the attendees at the introduction of the Mandarin and Cantonese Distress Lines and their commitment to making the introduction to the community a success.

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Next Issue 

DCO Membership Drive

Introduction of DCO Learning Forums - Website with first educational video 


CARF Accreditation 101 Friday, May 8th 10:00 am – 3:00 pm Webcast

Partnership Toolkit Educational Forum Fall 2009 Niagara Falls, ON









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DCO Distress Centres Ontario
700 Lawrence Ave W.
Suite 475 A
Toronto, Ontario M6A 3B4


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