On Dec. 17, 6:12 a.m., a post by “babysas” goes live, letting the world know he or she is thinking about suicide since being diagnosed with a mental illness.
Dec. 17, 5:41 p.m., a response: “I can imagine how scary it might be for you to go through this right now,” writes Alex from Victoria’s youthspace.ca support team, operated by the newly-renamed Need2. “Have you been able to express these suicidal concerns to someone you trust?”
Other youth are welcome to reply on the open forum, but none do. They’re watching and reading along, however. The thread by babysas has been viewed more than 600 times.
Ten volunteers moderate the site, responding to posts about sexual abuse, family, bullying, suicide and other topics.
But it’s a service with a deadline.
By June 30, Need2 will shut its doors, if funding doesn’t come forward.
“The board has to be fiscally responsible and ensure we have enough left to properly shut down and meet any outstanding obligations,” said executive director Jane Arnott.
Last year marked a tough year for the organization, formerly known as the Need Crisis and Information Line.
In February, the Vancouver Island Health Authority announced it would cut funding to its 24-hour crisis phone line, when Nanaimo won the bid to provide the service for all Vancouver Island.
In April, the Ministry of Children and Family Development pulled its entire $43,000 grant for Need’s suicide education and prevention programs for youth.
Since then, Need has downsized, rebranded, and relocated, but continued providing its suicide-prevention programs, largely by drawing on its reserve funds.
Those funds are running out.
Only $30,000 of Need’s $270,000-budget has been confirmed for 2011, mostly from municipalities, foundations and donations, said Arnott.
The budget covers salaries for five staff (two full-time) who run two programs and oversee 15 volunteers.
Need2 conducts awareness presentations at schools and runs youthspace.ca.
The youth website allows young people, like babysas, to post on the forum, or to chat online with volunteers.
Due to financial limitations, however, volunteers are only available for live chats between Thursday and Sunday, 5 to 11 p.m.
A province-wide website serving a similar function offers much better hours. Volunteers working for www.youthinbc.com are available to answer queries from youth between noon and 1 a.m., seven days a week. The website, run by B.C.’s Crisis Centre, does not offer discussion forums.
Forums are a key element of the Victoria-based website.
It provides a sense of affiliation, brings exposure to the positive messaging contained in responses, and allows users to support each other, said Arnott.
“The local focus was also very important,” she added. “We wanted a site that could assist … them transition to more specialized or face-to-face services and supports.”
She hopes her previous funders will see the value of the local programs.
“We continue to have a working relationship with both VIHA and the Ministry of Children and Family Development,” said Arnott.
“We see our ongoing programs as fitting in very much with (their) priorities … We’re hoping that working relationship can also translate into a bit more financial support over time.”
Meanwhile, more than two months have lapsed for babysas, who has spent the time at home with the blinds drawn, talking to nobody, and posting every few days. Support team responses acknowledge the despair and encourage reaching out. “We’re thinking about you babysas … stay strong.”
Feb. 3, 9:30 a.m.: a breakthrough. “There does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel and does indeed seem a lot brighter then it has done before, getting out and meeting up with family over the past few days has done me good,” wrote babysas.
Feb. 6, 1:44 p.m.: a response. “How great to achieve something you thought you couldn’t! … We’re happy you’ve found a safe place with youthspace… thank you for trusting us with your innermost thoughts and fears.”
On March 11, the news examines the health authority’s move to restore funding to the crisis centre in Northern Vancouver Island, and how Victorians in crisis have transitioned from a locally-based crisis line to a regional line based in Nanaimo.