Mental health support: Two languages, 24 hours a day

Bilingual Chimo Helpline serves New Brunswick residents around the clock, with expanded services for youth

The Chimo Helpline has been providing province-wide, toll-free helpline service in New Brunswick for more than two decades.

While Chimo offers most of its support to people aged 31 to 40, the organization recently shifted its focus to include youth.

“We know that suicide is the second-leading cause of death in youth, and we needed to do something to better reach that demographic,” says Lisa O'Blenis, executive director of Chimo Helpline.

In February 2019, Chimo launched a pilot for a live online chat program to meet this need. The chat is operated during peak hours, from 5 p.m. to midnight daily, in addition to 24/7 phone services.

“As of now, about 32% of our users are youth. The chat has also opened up access to people who may not be in a safe place to make a phone call. For women in a domestic situation, for example, sometimes it's easier to text for help,” O’Blenis explains.

“People with chronic anxiety, or who are suffering from a panic attack or PTSD episode aren’t always able to pick up the phone to call. The chat service provides easier access and more anonymity for users,” she adds.

The services are provided by a dedicated team of 14 staff members and 25 volunteers. To demonstrate the economic impact of the helpline, Chimo developed a Social Return on Investment report for the 2018-19 year.

“The report concluded that for every dollar invested in Chimo, we provide six dollars of social and economic value. When we can help people in their homes, we take stress off of the system—there are fewer people going to hospitals, calling emergency services or mobile crisis units,” explains O’Blenis.

“New Brunswick is a very rural province. If you're in crisis on a Sunday night, there are not a lot of options. That’s where we can provide service.”

Over the past year, Chimo volunteer crisis interveners provided 1,427 hours of service. The top three call categories were loneliness (41%), mental health (12%) and suicide (5%).

As part of Enbridge’s commitment to improving the quality of life in the areas we operate, we’re proud to support Chimo’s online chat pilot.

“We were over the moon to receive funding from Enbridge. The $5,000 donation will help us to keep the chat line running and make sure it’s properly staffed so that we can quickly answer every chat and help as many people as possible,” O’Blenis says.