What impact have you had?
In 2008, we operated one toll-free number and provided 647 hours of service by 9 operators to 120 individuals. However, we currently have a waiting list of some 20 individuals that want to be trained as operators. In addition, callers report frequent busy signals because only one toll-free line is operational. We would like to expand to 3 phone lines, 30 operators, and over 400 callers – some 12,000 calls per year.
We believe that we have been able to free up psychiatric emergency services and the hotlines for true emergencies. Callers can call the Peer-to-Peer Support Line when they are lonely, sad, or anxious and receive support. The Peer-to-Peer Support Line is available from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. 365 evenings per year when the callers are most likely to feel the need to talk.
We recruit people who are in recovery from mental illness to work for the Peer-to-Peer Support Line. We have a toll-free number which relays the calls to the operators in their own homes. This allows the operators to be free of the need for transportation in order to do their work. The Peer-to-Peer Support Line is made available to callers between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. daily. The operators are trained in empathic listening and crisis intervention. Calls are logged and reviewed by a supervisor with a Master's degree in Counseling. The volunteers build on their success at Peer-to-Peer Support Line, using the experience towards future paid employment.
In 2007, 82% of callers surveyed reported that Peer-to-Peer Support Line was very helpful in giving support. Of the callers surveyed who called the line when thinking of calling the psychiatric emergency service, 88% felt that the line met their needs. Of the operator staff surveyed, 86% felt that their work experience on the line was very helpful in developing job skills. Also, 86% of the operators felt it was very helpful in learning how to help people in need.
What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.
With our Peer-to-Peer Support Line so popular, we have problems with busy signals which keep callers waiting for their turn to talk. During 2010, we need to attract more funding for a second and third line, to maintain accessibility of the service to more callers. We need to continue our current funding base, seek follow-on funding, and continue to recruit qualified operators.
During 2011, we will need to maintain our funding sources from 2010 to keep the second and third lines operational. We could anticipate recruiting more volunteers and advertise our service more extensively.
During 2012, we will need to assess where we are with our service, maintain our funding and continue to expand if appropriate. We can provide assistance to our volunteers in finding future employment positions and offer that as an incentive to volunteering.
What would prevent your project from being a success?
If we do not expand our line capacity to address the problem of callers getting a busy signal, they may become discouraged and not use the service, and may resort back to using the hotline and psychiatric emergency services. Funding is critical to securing additional lines to prevent a busy signal. We also need to recruit operators who are in recovery from mental illness and advertise our service in more places in our community.