Calls down to P.E.I. family violence hotline during pandemic

Calls to P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services are down over the same period last year, and although officials there say they can't definitely say why, they believe Islanders who may be experiencing crises are too overwhelmed to seek help.

'People are just too overwhelmed to take some of those steps'

If you're in trouble due to domestic violence, officials are encouraging you to call P.E.I.'s Family Violence Prevention hotline. (Shutterstock)

Calls to P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services are down over the same period last year, although officials there are not clear exactly why.

Provincial officials have expressed concern recently that Islanders have not been seeking out the help they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We continually ask ourselves why that might be [that calls are down]," Danya O'Malley, executive director of P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services, told CBC News. 

She has heard some people may believe services, such as Anderson House shelter for women and children, are closed during the pandemic. But O'Malley thinks it may be something else.

"I think ... people are so overwhelmed that they can't imagine trying to go through a separation or trying to parent the kids out of two locations — I think frankly people are just too overwhelmed to take some of those steps," she said. 

O'Malley said the organization is doing as much promotion as it can to get the word out about its services. It is staffed and ready to meet demand, and there is usually no waiting list, she said. 

"Unfortunately it's something that we just need to ride out in many aspects," she said. "We need to wait until life starts to look a little more normal before we can start doing things that involve taking on more of that emotional labour."

'Feeling cooped up'

O'Malley said caring for those who have sought shelter at Anderson House involves a "strange dynamic" of alleviating stress, and also boredom. It's difficult for clients to make plans to move on with their lives because work, school and everything else is "at a standstill," she said.

Donations have been strong to P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services during the pandemic, says executive director Danya O'Malley. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"I think people have been feeling cooped up," she said, noting Phase 1 of P.E.I.'s loosened restrictions haven't helped get the organization's clients back in court, for instance. They're hoping that will happen in early June. 

Donors have been generous during the pandemic, O'Malley said, which is "fabulous" because fundraising events have come to a standstill. The federal government has also given the organization $48,000 in relief during the pandemic, for which O'Malley is grateful. 

The crisis line for P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services is 1-800-240-9894 and Islanders are urged to call on behalf of themselves or a friend.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Angela Walker


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