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Crisis lines face volunteer, cash crunch even as COVID-19 drives surge in calls

Crisis lines face volunteer, cash crunch even as COVID-19 drives surge in calls

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OTTAWA — Despite a surge in demand due to COVID-19, many distress centres across Canada are dangerously close to folding thanks to major declines in both volunteers and revenue.

Stephanie MacKendrick, CEO of Crisis Services Canada, which runs the only national suicide-specific helpline in Canada, says community distress centres across the country have seen 30 to 50 per cent more crisis calls since the pandemic began.

Yet they have also seen fewer volunteers, with some reporting a loss of up to 90 per cent.

While centres have started turning to paid staff to make up the difference, their cash flows have also been hit hard as their main sources of revenue — training and workshops — have dried up overnight due to the pandemic.