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Distress Centre Calgary sees spike in crisis contacts due to COVID-19

Distress Centre Calgary sees spike in crisis contacts due to COVID-19

CALGARY – Distress Centre Calgary is reporting a rising number of crisis contacts related to COVID-19, a caseload that is expected to continue growing over the coming months and even years as the pandemic, and its long-term effects, continue to impact Albertans.

The Centre received its first COVID-19 related call on January 26, and as of April 28 received over 37,000 contacts on its 24 hour 211 and crisis lines, daily chat and daily youth texts. Of those, 5,500 were COVID-19 related. Last week, the Centre’s 211 line saw a 94% increase in contacts compared to the same time last year.

“By far, COVID-19 is generating a high level of concern with those reaching out to us, and we expect those calls to increase the longer we stay isolated and physically distanced from each other,” said Diane Jones Konihowski, the Centre’s Director, Fund Development & Communications. “The most common concerns we’re hearing related to COVID-19 involve anxiety and stress, isolation and loneliness, depression and suicide. For example, we’ve seen a 21.4% increase in suicide-related contacts over this same period last year.”

Other COVID-19 related topics received on the 211 line include:

  • Questions about government or health information related to COVID-19;
  • Questions about resources because they or someone they know has COVID-19;
  • Unemployment and financial difficulties due to the pandemic;
  • Requests to access a particular resource, but can’t due to current restrictions; and
  • Inability to provide referrals because agencies are closed due to COVID-19.

New campaign reminds Albertans to reach out for support

A new campaign, launched today by Distress Centre Calgary, is designed to encourage anyone who needs help to reach out for support.

“With so many services unavailable across society due to the pandemic, we want everyone to know that we’re still here for them,” said Konihowski. “Distress Centre Calgary is always open.”

The Centre is also taking steps to manage the next anticipated phases of the pandemic. Generally, it takes about two to three months for people to be assured their basic needs – food, finance and shelter – are being met. Konihowski notes the expected growth in COVID-19 related calls is expected to continue for some time.

“When the general public begins to feel they have their basic needs met, their mental health, isolation and loneliness become more pressing concerns,” she said. “So the Centre is making sure we have the resources in place to offer the supports our clients need, today and into the next phase of this crisis. This means increasing our capacity on the lines, because we anticipate that crisis call volumes, chats and texts will increase in May and June. We expect this will continue for many months, if not years.”

Campaign video:

In addition to a series of ads, the Centre has created a new video. It can be viewed here: https://www.distresscentre.com/always-open

About Distress Centre Calgary:

Distress Centre Calgary has provided 24-hour crisis support in Calgary and southern Alberta since 1970. This is offered through the Centre’s 24-hour crisis line, email, daily chat, and daily text for youth. The Centre also provides professional counselling for clients with issues that cannot be resolved over the phone. If you need help finding a social, community or government service, 211 is available by phone and online chat. The Centre’s Coordinated Access and Assessment program serves Calgarians experiencing homelessness out of the Safe Communities Opportunity and Resource Centre. All of the Centre’s services are free. Visit https://www.distresscentre.com for more information.


For more information, contact: 

Diane Jones Konihowski
Director, Fund Development & Communications

In the spirit of respect, reciprocity and truth, Distress Centre Calgary would like to honour and acknowledge Moh’kinsstis, and the traditional Treaty 7 territory and oral practices of the Blackfoot confederacy: Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, as well as the Îyâxe Nakoda and Tsuut’ina nations. We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the historical Northwest Métis homeland. Finally, we acknowledge all Nations – Indigenous and non – who live, work and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.