Farmers and others living in rural or northern communities who need to talk to someone can now reach out through a new confidential online counselling service offered by Manitoba Farm and Rural Support Services.
In addition to their telephone lines, they are now offering an online Chat Support Line to anyone who may prefer this way to communicate, says MFRSS program manager Janet Smith.
The MFRSS continues to provide its traditional telephone service. This is a new option and has been added as an alternative for those who, for any reason, feel they cannot pick up the phone, Smith said.
“Even though our telephone line services are confidential, this seems to be a less stigmatizing way for some of reaching out for help.”
Smith said MFRSS has been piloting the Chat Support Line for about a year and finds it is a very good way to communicate with a counsellor. People seem to be less inhibited when they are writing down their concerns, she said.
“People tend to be very honest about what’s going on. You might just feel a little less restricted about what you can say.”
Users of the Chat Support Line are linked with a counsellor to have the private and confidential online conversation in ‘real time.’
Like the telephone service, this is a safe and completely confidential service with MFRSS’s trained counsellors listening, providing support in non-judgmental ways and enabling the expression of feelings, thoughts and options.
Users do not identify themselves but are required to register a postal code and indicate their gender to use the service. They must also agree to terms of service including the use of respectful language and avoiding chit-chat.
Smith said the MFRSS staff started thinking about offering the Chat Support Line after observing that more people of all ages seek help through other online venues such as Facebook, email and Twitter. Other counselling agencies say online counselling has increased use of their services.
“So we thought we should really try this in our centre too,” she said.
The Chat Support Line is available during MFRSS’s operating hours from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday.
For more information about the Chat Support Line or any other MFRSS’s free counselling services log on to www.rural support.ca or call 1-866-367-3276 toll free.
The MFRSS also offers a volunteer training program, Farmer-to-Farmer Information and Support Group, and a Suicide Bereavement Support group. The MFRSS also makes available a variety of resources including books, videos and articles related to agricultural behavioural health.