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Increase in calls to CMHA crisis line

Executive Director Julia Payson, left, and President Richard Finn showcase the Canadian Mental Health Association's 2018-2019 impact report.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / CMHA
September 28, 2019 - 3:39 PM

VERNON - It was a busy year for the Canadian Mental Health Association in Vernon.

The CMHA, which recently celebrated 60 years of service in the community, said the line took 6,529 calls last year for an 11 per cent increase over the previous year. The Good Morning safety check-in program also connected with isolated individuals 8,800 times.

Those and other statistics, as well as the election of a new board of directors, set the scene for the CMHA’s recent annual general meeting.

Julia Payson, executive director for CMHA Vernon, said the evening highlighted the six-decades of work to bring mental health support to the North Okanagan. Established in 1959, one of the CMHA’s early achievements was helping to form a psychiatric unit at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

“The founding members stood up to stigma and showed their resilience as role models in the community. They opened hearts, changed minds, and broke down the barriers that kept mental health issues in the dark,” said Payson. “This past year we have seen encouraging growth in the number of lives being profoundly changed. We are excited to create new partnerships and offer more supports to our community.”

Payson said last year was a notable one for the association.

To renovate its Albert Place facility and create 30 additional units of affordable housing, the CMHA received $3 million in provincial funding.

CMHA also expanded its nutrition program. Now up to six days per week, the program prepared 9,189 meals last year for an increase of 30 per cent.

Youth Community Dialogues also got their start in Vernon, Armstrong, and Lumby last year, the CMHA said. The program reaches out to rural youth and others lacking access to mental health service. It also seeks to address the community’s “disturbing opioid crisis and youth suicide rates.”

According to the CMHA, the Interior had the highest rate of youth suicide in B.C. from 2013 to 2018. While they didn’t provide statistics, the CMHA said that the Interior’s numbers are nearly double the provincial average.

BC Coroner’s Service statistics show a total of 111 suicide deaths among children and teens during that timeframe in the province, which is equal to 21 per cent of all child and youth deaths.

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