Nfld. & Labrador

On the line: Mental health phone service faces funding uncertainty

A mental health helpline that provides emotional support to people across the province has been facing funding uncertainty since September.
Paula Corcoran-Jacobs is the head of CHANNAL, the only support service in the province run by and for people living with mental health issues. (CBC)

A mental health helpline that provides emotional support to people across Newfoundland and Labrador has been facing funding uncertainty since September.

The Warm Line is a pre-crisis support service run by Consumers Health Awareness Network Newfoundland and Labrador, or CHANNAL.

We've diverted people from our crisis line, we've diverted people from our emergency rooms.- Paula Corcoran-Jacobs, CHANNAL

"In our opening month, where the research suggests you [would] get about 50 calls, we got 500," Paula Corcoran-Jacobs told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

Corcoran-Jacobs is CHANNAL's executive director.

She said the Warm Line is different from a crisis line or hotline because the calls are typically less critical in nature.

"Individuals are in pre-crisis, not necessarily at that life or death moment that sometimes people find themselves in."

Corcoran-Jacobs says more than 60 per cent of people struggling with mental health issues won't seek the help they need. (iStock)

She said callers speak with paid, trained staff who have first-hand knowledge of what it's like to live with a mental health issue.

The line averages 15 calls in a 12-hour period and has received more than 3,000 calls since it launched in May.

"Everyone from individuals who are isolated, really struggling with their mental health, but we also have a large population of people, just everyday folk, who are struggling — a bad day at work, extra stress."

In funding limbo 

According to Corcoran-Jacobs, the line gets its funding primarily from the Department of Health and Community Services.

And while the group has been in consultation with the province for months, she said there's been no guarantee that more money is coming.

"We had a pilot project that ended September 30th so, unfortunately, over the last two months, we've been in that limbo process of waiting to find out if there's any extended funding for us," she said.

"Right now it's a wait and see kind of process, and it's really difficult."

'We have, in fact, saved lives'

Corcoran-Jacobs said the Warm Line offers "a return on investment," and saves the province money in addition to saving lives.

"I don't like talking dollars and cents when we're talking about people's lives, however that's the language we need to speak," she said.

"We have the research to suggest that because of our line, because it's operating, we've diverted people from our crisis line, we've diverted people from our emergency rooms. We have, in fact, saved lines."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show