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Feeling lonely? Yukon chat line aims to beat the physical distancing blues

'Even though we're physically alone right now, we don't have to be emotionally alone,' says Amy Labonte, who helped set up a 24-hour phone line for people who just want to talk.

'Even though we're physically alone right now, we don't have to be emotionally alone'

A 24-hour chat line, set up by volunteers, is now taking calls in Yukon. The idea is to help people stay connected even as they keep physically distant from others. (Canadian Press)

For many people, it's been a major lifestyle shift. 

Not so much for Amy Labonte of Whitehorse — she's used to some physical distancing, because her son is more susceptible to serious infections. So she can really empathize with others right now.

"My son and I, we physically distance often because he has cystic fibrosis. And I feel that loneliness, and I feel that darkness. And it's hard," she said.

"Sometimes you know, you get so low that you forget to reach out to the people around you."

Now she's making it easier for Yukoners to reach out and connect with each other, from a safe distance. She's helped set up Let's Chat Yukon, a 24-hour phone line for, you guessed it — chatting.

"We wanted to come up with something that brought people closer together," she said. "It's not for crisis, it's not for counselling, it is just for human connection."

Labonte said the idea was sparked by NDP Leader Kate White, after she hosted a recent town hall discussion.

"People were calling in, and at the end some of the issues that they were having was loneliness, and missing human connection," Labonte explained.

'It's not for crisis, it's not for counselling, it is just for human connection,' said Amy Labonte, seen here with her son Seamus. (Brooke Martel Photography)

Some brainstorming by White, Labonte, and Michael Pealow led them to the chat line idea. A week or so later, it was up and running with some volunteer "chatters" standing by, 24 hours a day.

The launch was on Wednesday, and Labonte says the response has been immediate and amazing. They've already got a long list of volunteers to take calls at different times of day.

"People are really wanting to connect with somebody who is feeling those same feelings of, you know, loneliness, maybe a little bit of uncertainty, and they want some reassurance from people that they're not alone," Labonte said.

"Even though we're physically alone right now, we don't have to be emotionally alone."

Labonte said it's been a great initiative for her personally, as well, as she deals with her own feelings of stress and loneliness. 

"Even on those tough days, and even when I'm having those tough thoughts, or my mind is going to those places ... I remember that we've created something that's bringing light to people," she said.

"I think moving forward as well it's going to be a centre of light for me."

Let's Chat Yukon can be reached at 867-322-2772 or toll free in Yukon at 1-877-321-1001.

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