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A Lifeline During a Crisis

December 1, 2020

Struggling, but not alone; donated cell phones prove invaluable during pandemic

On Giving Tuesday, please consider making a gift to offer Manitobans a lifeline during this remarkably difficult time.


We take out our cell phones to check the time, the weather, and to check in on others. We take our cell phones on errands, to our couches, and everywhere in between. Most of all, we take our cell phones for granted. Cell phones are a window to knowledge, a touch point to loved ones, and, as the pandemic has taught us, a vital tool to support mental health.

“We had to quickly shift or complement some of our mental health and addictions services from in-person to virtual delivery,” says Lori Ulrich, Director, Crisis Response Services, Mental Health & Addictions, Shared Health. “These integral services include crisis support from clinicians; assessments from members of the psychiatry team; sessions with brief treatment counselors; classes around anxiety, depression, managing difficult emotions, and much more. As the pandemic made some components of in-person care more difficult, we saw an uptake in virtual attendance. Individuals have appreciated this option, however, not everyone has access to a cell phone.”

Twenty-one-year-old Caleb, who struggles with suicidal thoughts and self-harm, has been involved with Crisis Services for the past three years. In June, he received a donated cell phone from TELUS to access mental health support services.

“Having this phone makes me feel good because I can call Crisis Services if I feel like I am going to self-harm,” says Caleb.

Not only does the phone keep Caleb connected with valuable mental health services, but he can stay connected with his loved ones. “The first person I called on this phone was my fiancé—it felt so good to hear his voice. I also use my phone to listen to music, which helps when I get in a low mood,” says Caleb.

Having regular access to a phone is also vital for getting a job and for securing a place to live. Caleb is happy to report he recently used his phone to arrange an apartment rental.

“Due to physical-distancing restrictions, our Crisis Stabilization Unit had to drop from accepting 16 in-person patients to eight. We were able to still provide the services for 16 patients, but the remaining eight are now supported virtually. Unfortunately, without access to a phone, you can’t access virtual services,” says Ulrich.

Neil*, 32, struggles with long-term mental health issues. He notes that not only has he used his TELUS- donated phone for mental health services and to connect with family, but to stay on top of his medication with his pharmacist and to set helpful reminders to lead a more structured life.

“I am thankful for this phone because in the future, when I am ready to have my own phone plan, I will feel more confident,” says Neil. “For someone like me, it is good to not be afraid to try things out. Getting a phone on my own feels overwhelming, but I will have this positive experience to reflect on.”

On Giving Tuesday, please consider making a gift to offer Manitobans a lifeline during this remarkably difficult time. Gifts made to the HSC Foundation up until December 31, 2020, will have double the impact thanks to an anonymous donor who has committed to matching up to $500,000. To donate, please click here, call us at 204-515-5612, or text HSCF to 20222 to donate $20 now!


*Name has been changed.


By Natasha Havrilenko