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Canadian Red Cross and Bell Let’s Talk grow the Friendly Calls program

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$700,000 donation to Red Cross COVID-19 Appeal addresses increased need for mental wellbeing and supports, expands program to Atlantic Canada

MONTRÉAL, June 1, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ – Bell Let’s Talk and the Canadian Red Cross today announced a $700,000 investment to help support the mental wellbeing of Canadians during COVID-19 with a significant expansion of the Friendly Calls program in communities with increased demand for mental health services.

“Bell Let’s Talk is proud to help Canadian Red Cross expand the Friendly Calls program to reach even more people as demand for mental health supports has surged with the increased isolation and stress brought on by the COVID-19 situation,” said Mary Deacon, Chair of Bell Let’s Talk. “During this challenging time, it is critical to ensure that vulnerable people have quick access to the help they need.”

With the Friendly Calls program, Red Cross volunteers talk to people who are self-isolated to help decrease loneliness and social isolation, and connect them to mental health resources available to help meet their needs. Currently available in Ontario and Québec, Bell Let’s Talk funding will enable expansion of the program in those provinces and into Atlantic Canada with a 70% increase from existing Friendly Calls volunteer capacity. This includes telecommunications support and enhanced training for staff and 85 additional Safety and Wellbeing volunteers.

“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. “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.”

Red Cross staff and volunteers will be able to add up to 8,000 new Friendly Calls each month, helping to provide comfort and assistance, emotional support, guidance, and referrals for vulnerable people in times of crisis. A customized evidence-based telephone screening tool developed for the COVID-19 situation will help volunteers identify an individual’s level of need to help ensure the appropriate supports are available. The screening will also help with discussion about general wellbeing and health, loneliness and social isolation, general mood and anxiety, as well as financial and medication security.

Bell announced a $5 million increase in Bell Let’s Talk funding in response to COVID-19 with immediate support for 5 organizations delivering urgent mental health support on the front lines of Canadian communities. Today’s announcement builds on an earlier $250,000 donation to the Canadian Red Cross in March to support the organization’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

About Bell Let’s Talk
The largest-ever corporate commitment to mental health in Canada, Bell Let’s Talk is focused on 4 key action pillars – Anti-stigma, Care and Access, Research and Workplace Leadership. Since its launch in 2010, Bell Let’s Talk has partnered with more than 1,000 organizations providing mental health services throughout Canada, including hospitals, universities, local community service providers and other care and research organizations. To learn more, please visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.

About the Canadian Red Cross
Here in Canada and overseas, the Red Cross stands ready to help people before, during and after a disaster. As a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – which is made up of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and 192 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies – the Canadian Red Cross is dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity in Canada and throughout the world.

SOURCE Bell Canada

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