Friendly Callers now serving Thames Valley’s older 2SLBTQI+ community

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Thames Valley Addiction and Mental Health Services is offering new supports to older members of the 2SLBTQI+ community.

This initiative is an expansion of the Friendly Callers Senior Support program, a service that launched in 2020 and has helped about 140 individuals in Elgin, Middlesex, and Oxford Counties. The program serves adults 55 and over who identify as 2SLBTQI+, providing emotional support, companionship, and connecting them to suitable community resources.

Now, older adults in the Thames Valley region will have access to these weekly check-ins.

“Getting the calls every week has reduced my sense of loneliness and depression. Before getting the calls, I felt isolated. Most of my siblings have passed away, and I only see my son and daughter now, and they do their best, but it’s nice to have someone else who takes an interest,” said a participant of the Friendly Callers program. “I really look forward to the calls. Knowing my volunteer will call each week makes me feel important and special enough to be remembered. My volunteer is great, we can talk about anything, be honest about life, and we can disagree without feeling hurt!”

Friendly Callers is funded by the United Way Elgin Middlesex with help from Canada’s New Horizon for Seniors Program. The program currently has 107 trained volunteers.

“During the pandemic, I went through my own social isolation, which took a toll on my mental health and well-being. So, in the summer of 2022, I decided to find a way to help those who still feel isolated within my community even after the pandemic, and that is when I came across CMHA TVAMHS,” said Kamal, a Friendly Callers volunteer. “I looked at the volunteering programs offered and discovered that the Friendly Callers – Senior Support was perfect for me as it allowed me to use my personal experiences during the pandemic to help others facing isolation and other mental health difficulties to overcome their personal struggles.”

The program is currently looking for more people to volunteer remotely for Friendly Callers.

CMHA Thames Valley Addiction and Mental Health Services shared a startling statistic, claiming that over the last year, 36 per cent of Ontarians experienced a mental health concern that they needed help with, but 30 per cent didn’t reach out because they didn’t know where to go. CMHA also says 2SLBTQI+ people are at greater risk for mental health issues due to the discrimination and socio-economic challenges often faced by members of the community.

“We understand that isolation and loneliness can be hard, and sometimes you need a little extra support,” said Lori Griffith, director of crisis services at CMHA Thames Valley Addiction and Mental Health Services. “With the Friendly Callers program and now the specialized support for older adults who identify as 2SLGBTQI+, we can connect with and provide much-needed supportive listening to some of our most vulnerable community members.”

If you or someone you know could benefit from the Friendly Callers Senior Support program, you can complete an intake form on the CMHA Thames Valley Addiction and Mental Health Services website.

You May Also Like

More From Author