September 22, 2020

BY CASEY SCHELLENBERGER

I don’t know too many people who like to make phone calls under the best circumstances, let alone if they were in the middle of a mental health crisis.

These crises can cover a wide range of feelings and problems from excessive anxiety and mood swings to suicidal thoughts.

So, it is important that everyone who needs help get it.

In theory, services such as IMAlive.org, which is one of the only services of its kind that actually brands itself as a crisis intervention network and provides crisis intervention using instant messaging, is a great idea.

For some people, it’s a lot easier to reach out for help when the person helping is just some text on their computer screen.

However, one problem with these services is, with a couple of exceptions, most of these online crisis chats are only online for very limited time periods. For example, IMAlive.org, at its worst, is only online for three hours every day, from 7 to 10 p.m.

While IMAlive.org is currently trying to raise enough funds to run the service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for now there are still times where the service is unavailable to those in need.

For an exclusively Canadian example, YouthinBC offers one-on-one online chats between noon and one a.m. seven days a week.

Most people can’t plan their mental health crises around when the online crisis networks will be, well, online.

This leaves them to either gather up enough courage to make a phone call or try to deal with it on their own.

The only 24-hour-a-day services I’ve been able to find are 7 Cups of Tea, which calls itself an “online emotional support service” and has volunteers from all over the world trained in active listening, not necessarily crisis intervention, and www.mentalhealthhelpline.ca, which is not a crisis helpline, but instead an information line about services available to people in Ontario.

So, while an online alternative to the current phone crisis lines would be welcome, I’m unsure of how effective they’ll actually be until they can be implemented on the same scale and offer the same services as the 24 hours a day, seven day a week phone lines.

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