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Annual Report

"It takes all of us to build a community where suicides are prevented."

2022 was another year of accomplishments and challenges, of embracing growth while also seeking stability, and of transformational change that has person-focused, human-to-human support at the centre of it.

We want to begin this letter with a thank you. We cannot do what we do at Distress Centre alone. Increasingly each year we’ve seen the power and necessity of enthusiastic collaboration, a strong and empathetic community, and the human need for connection. Thank you to the volunteers, staff, partners, funders, advocates and everyone in our community who supports the mission of Distress Centre and helps us to make the community a better place for all.

Most importantly, thank you to each and every person who picked up the phone or turned on their computer to reach out to Distress Centre for help in 2022.

After two years of pandemic-response as a major focus for Distress Centre – and recognizing that the pandemic is still not over – 2022 was the first year that we began to find our long-term footing in the “new normal.” Though some staff and volunteers have been at our office since 2020, and Distress Centre’s team at SORCe has been providing in-person services since 2020, 2022 was when we saw many of our staff and volunteers come back to the office in some capacity, breathing life into the building we never got to settle into after moving in February 2020.

By the end of 2022, and for the first time in over two years, we had in-person counselling appointments occurring again. We also hosted groups of volunteer trainees in our training room and brought back in-person team building and wellness activities. We do difficult work at Distress Centre – connection and joyful moments are necessary so that we can continue to show up for the community.

We also celebrated the first anniversary of introducing 24/7 crisis text and chat in 2022 along with the anniversary of the launch of our remote volunteer role, allowing people from all over Canada to give back in the way that works best for them.

Robyn Romano celebrated her first full year as CEO for Distress Centre. A notable achievement within this first year was the development and launch of our 2022–2025 strategic plan: a plan for strengthening, adapting and transforming our people, programs and the broader system in which we operate for a stronger crisis and navigation hub that connects and empowers people and communities. In 2022, our focus was on our people pillar. We know that when our people are supported, engaged and resilient, strong programs and system change follow.

Through the collaborative efforts of many existing and new partnerships in 2022, positive strides were made to create a better response to mental health and addictions issues in our city.

On February 1, 2022, Distress Centre began a pilot project with Calgary Police Service and Calgary 911 to divert non-emergency mental health and addictions calls from 911 to 211. Through this partnership, 211 can assist people experiencing these issues who are better served by social services, rather than a police response.

Over the course of 2022, this partnership has grown to include Alpha House and The Alex. Collaborations like these allow us to best serve people by connecting them with the right resource, at the right time for their issue, in a way that is accessible to them.

It has been exciting to watch the landscape of information and referrals begin to transform to a place of true system navigation.

Suicide-related contacts remained high in 2022. 27% of crisis contacts were suicide-related, increasing to 48% when we look at only chat and text contacts. This highlights the need to have multiple ways for someone to access crisis support.

At Distress Centre, we talk about suicide every day. But in the regular world, though the conversations around mental health have increased over the years and the stigma has decreased, people are still largely silent on the difficult subject of suicide.

But if someone talks about suicide, that’s a good thing. If someone shares with you that they’ve been having thoughts of suicide, that means that they trust you enough to share that with you and that they are reaching out for help. And that is the first step to getting to a better place. Not only do we want to provide crisis support at Distress Centre, we want to educate the community and provide information so that anyone can help a friend, neighbour or colleague who is in distress and perhaps struggling with thoughts of suicide.

It takes all of us to build a community where suicides are prevented.

We are proud of what we accomplished in 2022, but the work isn’t done yet. We are excited to continue our work in 2023 as we press forward in our mission to provide compassionate, accessible crisis and navigation support that enhances the health, well-being and resiliency of individuals in distress.

Robyn Romano

Robyn Romano

Chief Executive Officer

Duncan Melville

Duncan Melville

Board of Directors Chair