A call centre for people with mental health problems is expanding in northeastern Ontario.

It’s not a hot line for emergency calls — it’s called a warm-line, and it's for people who need to speak with someone about their problems.

Mike Clark — who once suffered from mental health issues himself — is now the regional co-ordinator for the Warmline, which is part of a blanket of services affiliated with the Canadian Mental Health Association.

"At one point in my life... I thought I was alone," he said.  "But since I've found out that there are other people like me that have that passion, it has encouraged even me to go further into the field."

There are already Warmline centres in Sudbury and North Bay.

A centre will open in Sault Ste. Marie Wednesday, and another will open Thursday in Timmins.

Jobs for those with mental illness

Clark worked the phones for the Warmline in Sudbury for three years. Clark has bi-polar disorder and has struggled with heroin addiction. He said his experience taking calls inspired him to continue in the mental health field, and he is now the regional co-ordinator of the program.

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Shana Calixte, executive director of Warmline. (NE LHIN)

Shana Calixte, the executive director of the program, said 91 per cent of people with severe mental illness are unemployed.

"That means there are a lot of people out there who either are not getting opportunities to work because of stigma or just fear and isolation of working."

Shana said, with the expansion of two new Warmline sites in the Northeast, they will now employ 18 people with mental illness.

The Warmline operates from Monday to Sunday, 6-10 p.m. People can access the service at 1-866-856-9276.