When Jasmine picks up the phone, she doesn’t know what she’ll hear from the voice on the other end.
It could be the concerned voice of a mother who needs help adjusting to her newborn baby. Or it might be a desperate voice calling out for help because they see no other way out but death.
“Sometimes the call is from a family member who is looking to help someone they love get through a difficult time with their mental health,” says Jasmine. “Other times, we are there to support someone who is experiencing a feeling or situation they feel they just can’t overcome.”
Providing support to people, when they need it
Lending an ear for people in need is what Jasmine and her team at Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service do, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year.
The service is one of 200 community-based organizations that provide support services to people and families across Saskatchewan.
The calls they get are just as diverse as the people who make up the roughly 45-member team.
“For some clients, they prefer to speak with someone on the phone directly,” says Jasmine. “Other people feel more secure and connect better meeting face-to-face. In cases like this [for our Centre], we go out to meet that person or family face-to-face wherever they live, as long as they are within the City of Saskatoon.”
According to Jasmine, it’s all about making a connection with the person – to help them get in touch with the supports they need, when they need it.
Not all sunshine and rainbows
When dealing with up to 60 calls per day, working 10-hour shifts that change from days to nights each week, even the little things help.
“Lucky for us, we have a full kitchen,” says Jasmine. “It allows you to remove yourself from work if you need a bit of a timeout. Walking into this [kitchen] space makes it feel like you’re away from work.”
She admits the work can take its toll on even the most seasoned veteran. Her team relies on the support of other professionals to help them cope during very tragic cases. This could mean one-on-one counseling, or it could mean large group debriefs with the help of a specialist.
“Sometimes, families are in a situation where we need to bring a child, or children, into care. We do this as a last resort, to ensure the safety of the child during a time of need.”
Jasmine adds, “Despite our best efforts, situations don’t always end the way we want them to.”
Removing the stigma
“Parenting is one of the toughest jobs in the world,” says Thyra, program manager at Positively Parenting, a community-based organization that helps individuals to become better parents and families in and around the community of Meadow Lake. She – also a parent – adds: “Parents aren’t given an instruction manual or a textbook and they sure aren’t given a job description, or work training for that matter. There is an unsaid expectation you should know what you’re doing as a parent.”
Thyra notes that some parents are still a bit nervous about taking classes at the Centre, ranging from parenting classes to family activity nights, from literacy classes to anger management workshops. “Parents are either embarrassed to show up for fear of being labelled as a bad parent or sometimes feel as though the instructors can’t relate to what they’re going through,” she says.
She believes the solution to breaking through these barriers is all about removing the stigma when it comes to asking for, and getting, help. “The more we create a dialogue and forum for discussion, the more support parents will have. We need to take away the isolation and embarrassment around issues parents are struggling with.”
Jade, a mother of four, agrees with this view. “Parents often don’t seek out support because they are scared,” says Jade, a former participant and now a one of the Positively Parenting facilitators. “They say to themselves ‘I don’t need help, I’m not a bad parent.’”
Communication is the key
“The more people we at the Centre talk to, the more we find common linkages among issues that parents are facing,” says Thyra.
“What we found working with parents is that there is a growing gap between parents and children in terms of communication.”
Part of this stems from the rise of social media and mobile devices.
“We’ve seen how devices made to help us connect with each other can sometimes take us apart,” says Thyra.
She adds that both children and parents need to communicate to resolve conflict and become the very best families they can be.
Words of advice
For both Jasmine and Thyra, helping people in need is all in a day’s work. The organizations they work for, and so many others across the province, are there to make life better for people.
“Don’t feel that you are alone. Ask for help. There are a lot of organizations out there that just want to help. We know what it’s like. We get it on a certain level,” says Thyra.
Jasmine adds, “Everyone has an inner strength they need to hold on to, because if there is one thing that I’ve seen, it’s that people are resilient in the face of tragedy.”