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April 2008   


In this Issue

American Association of Suicidology Conference update

  • Conference Overview
  • What DCO representative, Vanita Varma, learned
  • A new perspective on frequent callers

2008 Spirit of Volunteerism Award Nominees

  • List of nominees

Visioning Day Action Priorities
  • Case Management

  • Technology Integration

  • Collaboration/Networking

  • Single Contact Number

  • Awareness Building

Arnold Devlin:  Remembered






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American Association of Suicidology Conference Update

Conference Overview The 41stannual American Association of Suicidology (AAS) conference was held April 16 to 19, 2008 in Boston, Massachusetts. The 6th Annual Crisis Centers Conference was held concurrently with the AAS conference. The theme of both conferences was Advancing Suicidology: Embracing Diversity in Research and Practice.  The Crisis Centers Conference offered workshops, networking opportunities, and program sharing sessions for crisis center volunteers, staff, and managers. A facilitated networking time helped representatives from crisis centres across the United States and Canada share good ideas and best practices. Some of the workshop topics included: how to develop a media message; how social networks can be used to recruit volunteers, increase awareness and raise money; and how to deal with “chronic callers.” 

What DCO Representative, Vanita Varma, Learned

Vanita Varma, Executive Director of Telecare Distress Centre (TDC) in Brampton attended the conference on behalf of Distress Centres Ontario (DC)) Vanita has been with TDC since 2003 and is currently on the DCO board of directors.  She found the conference helpful—especially connecting with staff and volunteers from other distress and crisis centres. She was surprised to learn that many crisis lines in the United States are answered by paid staff or sometimes a combination of paid staff and volunteers. Very few crisis lines were completely staffed by volunteers—which is the case for most lines in Ontario. “There are pluses and minuses to both situations,” says Vanita. With paid staff you can be assured that most of the time they are going to show up for their shift, sometimes volunteers cancel at the last minute. She noted that there seems to be less volunteerism in the US. Canadians can be proud of the amount of volunteer time they donate to causes like distress centres.  

Vanita also noticed that few of the American crisis centre staff complained about lack of funding. With a larger population, they also have a larger funding base for distress lines. She also remarked that many crisis centres worked closely with other services in a particular region like healthcare, social services, and police. She felt centres in Ontario would benefit from similar cooperation with complementary service providers in their region.

A New Perspective on Frequent Callers

It was reassuring for Vanita to discover that many distress and crisis centres faced common challenges like frequent callers and a diminishing volunteer base. Vanita, who has 15 years of counselling experience with children, youth and adults in Singapore and Canada, got a new perspective on frequent callers. She knows that volunteers and staff can be at times “unmotivated” when providing listening support to people who call again and again. But through the conference she was reminded that frequent callers are “people who wouldn’t have anyone if they did not call you. Who knows if they wouldn’t be suicidal tomorrow,” she says. Conference participants were encouraged to view frequent callers as a “fan club” of sorts. “It is important to continue to be compassionate, kind and caring with this group of the callers who still need us, as much as any new caller” says Vanita.

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Spirit of Volunteerism Award 
   2008 Nominees

Distress Centres across Ontario are fortunate to have so many gifted volunteers providing direct support to people in need in our communities via their telephone support work as well as donating time organizing events, doing maintenance around our buildings, providing leadership on our boards of directors and so much more.

It was difficult to choose just several recipients from among the 16 nominees for the 2008 Spirit of Volunteerism Award given in memory of Rev. Chad Varah. Distress line volunteers across Ontario nominated for the award have shown a commitment to listening with empathy and to the ideals of the distress line movement as they have supported Ontarians in turmoil. 

A special issue of the E News + Views will be issued this week to honour all the nominees.  The wonderful and caring individuals you will learn more about include:

Sherman Brown - Telecheck Dufferin
Sandra Conroy - Telecare Distress Centre Brampton
Mary Gurfinkle - Distress Centres Toronto (North branch)
Stacy Harris - Distress Centre of Windsor-Essex County
Phyllis Hemmingway - Telecare Cambridge Distress Line
Carly Hicks - Distress Centre Niagara
Margaret Knechtel - Distress Centre Wellington Dufferin
Pankaj Mehra - Oakville Distress Centre
Steve Raff - Distress Centre Niagara
Charles Ryan - Distress Centre Durham
Cheryl Ryan - Distress Centre Durham
Joan Schrier - Distress Centre of Ottawa Region
Chris Springer - Distress / Crisis Services Waterloo Region
Henry Van Der Werff - Distress Centre Peel
Hira Verma - Telecare Distress Centre Brampton
Lesley Ann Zakoor - Distress Centre of Windsor-Essex County

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Visioning Day - Action Priorities 

Here is a brief recap of the Action Priorities that were developed at the Visioning Day held in Niagara Falls in February, 2008.  These priorities are directing the work of Committees of the membership and the Board and Staff of DCO on the behalf of our membership.

Case Management  We work together to identify common standards and Best Practices that would be required to be an accredited DC...

Action: Model-building options for Accreditation are reviewed in the fall  / Centres' leadership decides to proceed with accreditation development process

Technology Integration We work together on Technology Infrastructure Systems Integration...

Action: DCO commissions a feasibility study of the telephone capabilities of the existing systems and possiblities
Action: Determine types of technology that are available and potentially useful

Collaboration & Networking We work together to find ways to enhance collaboration in education and service delivery.

Action: Seek a Trillium grant to support training of staff and volunteers and improve networking amongst DCs
Action: Create a Province-wide Seniors Assurance Network

Single Contact Number We work together to find a way to set up a single contact number for people throughout the province to use...

Action: Develop a plan and timetable to establish a provincial 1-800 number for suicide prevention with seamless links to special distress lines
Action: Establish other provincial lines for specific groups (e.g. seniors) and specific types of crisis interventions

Awareness-building We work together to build awareness of DCs and our services through province-wide marketing initiatives and promotions...

Action: All DCs will celebrate Volunteer Appreciation Week with localized events
Action:  All DCs will promote Suicide Awareness Day and create local events on the same date in September 08


Arnold Devlin, Remembered

Arnold Devlin, chairman of the Ontario Suicide Prevention Network (OSPN) and Program Administrative Manager of the Regional Children's Psychiatric Centre of Northeast Mental Health Centre (Sudbury Campus) passed away suddenly at his home in Sudbury on April 25th, 2008.

Late last year, Arnold spoke about the need to bring social and policy change to the area of suicide prevention in Ontario in the DCO e News + Views.  A fervent supporter for additional services and a coordinated suicide prevention strategy, Devlin believed "People need to know that it's ok to talk about suicide, and that there is help available." 

Devlin was also a cycling enthusiast and contributor to the website. He will be sadly missed.

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Next Issue 

More information on the

Partnership Toolkit

Ottawa, ON
Nov 7 & 8, 2008
Staff, Volunteers, Board Members and Partners welcome

Theme and Session Information


Accreditation Committee  Update







 Upcoming Events 

September 2008
Toronto, ON

November 7, 2008
Ottawa, ON

Educational Forum
Networking Event
Nov 7 & 8, 2008
Ottawa, ON



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