Bell Let’s Talk Ramps Up Mental Health Support For Indigenous Families And Communities

Canadian Red Cross volunteer, Cheryl Horgan, on the phone for a visit during one of her weekly calls as part of the Friendly Calls program. (CNW Group/Bell Canada)

Bell Let’s Talk and the Canadian Red Cross announced a $250,000 partnership to enhance access to crisis support for people living with mental health challenges in Indigenous communities with the expansion of the Friendly Calls program.

The Canadian Red Cross Friendly Calls program helps address feelings of isolation and loneliness, which have intensified for many throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The program pairs a trained Red Cross volunteer with a youth or adult who is feeling isolated or lonely for a social conversation, and connects them with mental health resources available in their community to help meet their needs. This support will help the Red Cross to work with regional Indigenous organizations, including the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, to develop and expand the Friendly Calls program later this spring to serve the unique experience of Indigenous people around the country with a focus on cultural safety and community accessibility. All Canadian Red Cross volunteers and staff are diversity trained and receive cultural competency training with attention to issues that are specific and significant to First Nations.

The Indigenous-specific Friendly Calls programming is being co-designed with partners, including Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers. Program development has included the support of long-standing Canadian Red Cross partners like the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, ensuring effective and appropriate programming consistent with community-identified needs and priorities.

“Bell Let’s Talk is pleased to build on our existing partnership with the Canadian Red Cross to bring new mental health resources to Indigenous families that need them now more than ever. The Canadian Red Cross has a proven track record of supporting culturally safe health and wellness programming in consultation with Indigenous communities and leaders and we look forward to supporting the growth of their important work to help more people living in rural and remote areas have access to critical mental health care and support.” –  Mary Deacon, Chair of Bell Let’s Talk

“The Canadian Red Cross collaborates with hundreds of Indigenous communities across Canada every year, developing and providing culturally safe and relevant programming to help people. This support from Bell Let’s Talk will enable the Red Cross to broaden our efforts with the Friendly Calls program and help further this culturally safe and community-led assistance.” –  Shelley Cardinal, Director of Indigenous Relations for Canadian Red Cross

“The continuing impacts of COVID-19 on the mental health of Indigenous communities in Manitoba are significant and represent an added layer of challenge on top of the many compounding issues facing Indigenous youth and their families. From pandemic response to vaccination campaigns to emergency preparedness efforts, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has a strong working relationship with the Canadian Red Cross. We look forward to supporting the development of their Friendly Calls program for Indigenous communities in partnership with Bell Let’s Talk.” –  Grand Chief Arlen Dumas, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

In 2020, Bell Let’s Talk and the Canadian Red Cross announced a $700,000 donation to help support the mental well-being of Canadians during COVID-19 with a significant expansion of the Friendly Calls program in communities with increased demand for mental health services. Today’s announcement is a major commitment from this donation to support the accelerated and community-led delivery of mental health programming in Indigenous communities in Canada. To become a volunteer for the Friendly Calls program, please click here.

Bell Let’s Talk Day is January 26 – Join the conversation!
On Bell Let’s Talk Day, Bell donates 5 cents to Canadian mental health programs for every applicable text, local or long distance call, tweet or TikTok video using #BellLetsTalk, every FacebookInstagramLinkedInPinterestSnapchatTikTokTwitter and YouTube view of the Bell Let’s Talk Day video, and every use of the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or Snapchat lens. All at no cost to participants beyond what they would normally pay their service provider for online or phone access.

SOURCE Bell Canada


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