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How a suicide helpline is helping fund HeartSpark


TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE/SUICIDAL IDEATION


"I just took a bunch of pills."

"I am planning to kill myself."

"I don't want to live any more."


These are just some of the phrases heard every shift by the staff of the 9-8-8 Suicide Crisis Helpline.


Almost every call is someone who is struggling and needs support - the severity and response is on a case-by-case basis.


Responders can't ever know exactly what they're going to get: will the call end in a person feeling better after weathering the emotional storm or will emergency services need to be contacted?


All responders can do is be as prepared as possible and know they will be supported through the entire process by the incredible 988 staff.


I've had the pleasure of working with these responders since October - my group of new trainees had a month-and-a-half of intensive trainings, role plays and mentoring shifts before we began taking calls from Canadians in crisis.


We heard startling facts about suicide and who it affects - all gender identities and ages - even with some callers being younger than 13.


We learned the best ways to assess for safety and risk while maintaining a calm, caring and compassionate (three of my favourite words!) demeanour. All while offering non- judgemental, caring support.


We hear pain, suffering, despair and loss of hope. In some we see ourselves. In others it's hard to find common ground, but we can all relate to feeling alone, upset and needing someone to talk with. We are there to help callers get through those moments that have them questioning whether or not they want to continue living.



Today, Jan. 24 is Bell's Let's Talk Day. Let's Talk Day's goal is to bring awareness and raise money for mental health programming nationally. Visit https://letstalk.bell.ca/our-impact/ to learn about all the important mental health programming they support, including 988.


As reported on their website (https://letstalk.bell.ca/) 50% of young people experience mental health issues without talking to anyone; and 11.8% of Canadians have had thoughts of suicide. (My basic calculation says this would be about 4,782,351 Canadians as of October 2023.)


That is a lot of people who are suffering with mental health issues - and if we can do things to normalize the fact that many people are experiencing this, maybe we can continue to work toward a more empathetic and compassionate community of support.


If you or someone you know is struggling and needs support, dial or text 9-8-8 at any time to be connected with a real person who is there to listen. To learn more about the helpline, visit https://988.ca/.



I feel so lucky and grateful I have the opportunity to do this help line work part-time, and up until very recently was the sole funding for HeartSpark (with exception to a handful of generous donations from the community to get us up and going).


Every hour I put in talking to those in crisis, is more money I can put into this free programming for youth, which gives them a safe place to continue growing and developing into the kind, caring and compassionate adults they will be.


I am so proud the 988 Suicide Crisis Helpline work I am doing is supporting my mental health and friendship programming - it just seems like such a beautiful way to be able to provide HeartSpark to the community, where in only four months I've seen tremendous growth in the girls who belong to HeartSpark - an organization I wish had existed when I was growing up.


I realize now it couldn't have existed because it is based around my own life experiences and is uniquely me! And I want to be a provider of positive life experiences for our future leaders and helpers.


In the future I hope my non-profit application will be approved and I can begin to apply for support through those streams. While I would have been working at the helpline as a volunteer anyway, I will always remember how this allowed me to help others two-fold.

In the meantime, if you would like to help support HeartSpark's mission of reaching as many youth as possible there are a few ways.

  1. We can accept donations via EFT to heartsparkwithholly@gmail.com (however I cannot provide a tax receipt).

  2. Sponsor a Sweater: Each participant receives a Comfy Sweater with their name and badges showing all the HeartSpark programming they have participated in. Your logo will be prominently displayed on the arm. Email heartsparkwithholly@gmail.com regarding sponsorship cost per sweater.

  3. Purchase your own Comfy Sweater! All proceeds from sweater sales go back into HeartSpark. https://www.heartsparkwithholly.com/product-page/heartspark-unisex-fleece-crewneck-sweater (Free local Fort McMurray delivery!)

  4. Share our social media posts so awareness of our programming can reach far and wide! Our handle on Facebook and Instagram is @heartsparkwithholly

  5. Sign up for our events! Occasionally we will be running events locally - the more registrations, the better.


I am eternally grateful for all the support I have received thus far, and am looking forward to a 2024 of growth and continuing to add to our growing HeartSpark family.



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