Canadian Red Cross Friendly Calls Program Expands Following $700,000 Donation From Bell Let’s Talk

Red Cross volunteers. Photo courtesy of the Canadian Red Cross

Bell Let’s Talk has announced a $700,000 donation to the Canadian Red Cross in support of their Friendly Calls program, which will allow the system of volunteer-run support lines to grow in Ontario and Quebec along with expanding into Atlantic Canada.

The investment announced on June 1 was made to help support the mental health of Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a statement from Bell. The Friendly Calls program has Red Cross volunteers talk to people who are isolated to help decrease loneliness and connect them to any available mental health resources they may need. The program currently focuses on isolated seniors, said Leianne Musselman, director of communications for the Canadian Red Cross, but they recognize there are others in isolation who may need support. They’ve also received a significant increase in the number of calls due to the impacts of COVID-19, she said.

“The new funding will allow us to expand and enhance the program to address the needs of all age groups who may be experiencing isolation,” Musselman said. “We are in the process of training personnel to provide support to individuals of all ages who are experiencing loneliness and isolation.”

The funding announcement builds on a $250,000 donation Bell made to the Canadian Red Cross in March. Red Cross staff and volunteers will be able to add up to 8,000 new Friendly Calls each month, according to Bell, aiming to provide emotional support and referrals for anyone struggling with their mental health. 

A “customized evidence-based telephone screening tool” developed for the COVID-19 pandemic will help volunteers identify each caller’s level of need to help make sure they receive the right support, the statement said. The screening also aims to guide discussions about mood and anxiety, general health and social isolation, as well as topics like financial and medication security.

“The need for health and wellbeing supports continues to increase significantly due to the COVID-19 crisis, and the Red Cross is on the front lines in helping Canadians feel connected during this difficult time,” said Conrad Sauvé, president and CEO of the Canadian Red Cross, in the statement. “With support from Bell Let’s Talk, we are increasing the Friendly Calls program to reach more isolated people who are struggling with how COVID-19 has impacted their lives.”

More information about how to reach the Friendly Calls programs will be available on the Canadian Red Cross website in the coming weeks.


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