Quiet help line worries P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services

Fewer women have been calling the help line at P.E.I Family Violence Prevention Services recently, and that’s a concern for executive director Danya O’Malley.

‘I think that fewer people are able to reach out for support’

It's important for everyone to be aware of the potential for domestic violence, says Danya O'Malley, executive director of P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services. (CBC)

Fewer women have been calling the help line at P.E.I Family Violence Prevention Services recently, and that's a concern for executive director Danya O'Malley.

There are a lot of things in the COVID-19 pandemic putting stress on families, said O'Malley. People are out of work and being told to stay in their homes as much as possible, in addition to the direct worry about getting sick.

"Tempers will be running high, fuses short," she said.

"It becomes a more and more volatile situation as things go on and as the strains on the family deepen, which we know can worsen abuse."

The lack of calls, O'Malley said, may be connected to that public health requirement that everyone stay home as much as possible.

"I think that fewer people are able to reach out for support," she said.

"They might be at home with their children and not want to call while they're occupied, or they may be home with their partners and unable to call safely."

Others may be questioning whether services are available during the crisis, which O'Malley emphasized they absolutely are. The help line is still available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-240-9894.

Not just for women in vulnerable situations

Expert counsellors can be reached on that line, O'Malley said, who can provide advice on a number of services available.

It is also available for people who may be concerned about someone else. It is important for other people to call if they are worried, she said.

"They might be the only person who is able to do that," said O'Malley.

"If they hear something happening in another [apartment] unit and they are able to call. I would encourage them to call 911 if it sounds like a violent incident is taking place."

People can also call the help line if the situation does not appear to involve immediate danger.

Both the federal and provincial governments have provided extra support for women's shelters during the pandemic, O'Malley said. The funding is flexible. O'Malley said it hasn't been needed yet, but she can imagine a number of ways it might be used: staff overtime, rental of accommodation for people under isolation orders, extra supplies if the shelter gets busy.

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Angela Walker


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