Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 27
A line to friendship
BY AMY ASMAN
There are times in everyone’s lives when the sound of a caring voice on the other end of the phone line can be a tremendous asset. Luckily, Transitions-Mental Health Association has launched a Friendship Line in Northern Santa Barbara County for people living with a mental illness.
The Friendship Line is a peer-to-peer, non-crisis telephone support line run and staffed by people who have experienced mental illness themselves. The line is designed to work in conjunction with SLO Hotline and other crisis lines in Santa Barbara County. Emergency calls should be made to 911 or the emotional crisis hotline at 1-800-549-4499.
The Friendship Line provides supportive listening for callers living with a mental illness in Santa Maria, Guadalupe, and Lompoc.
“Calls to the Friendship Line generally involve conversations about everyday aspects of life, mental-health symptoms and recovery, daily responsibilities, relationships, and positive life events,” program manager Steve Greene said in a press release. “We hope that callers value being able to freely discuss any topic they choose and to experience a personal connection while doing so.”
The Friendship Line is available seven nights a week from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., by calling 345-1877. People can call any time and leave a message; staff will return calls during operating hours.
“The Friendship Line is unique, providing a friendly source of peer support during hours when other services are often not available,” Greene said.
Frank Ricceri, associate director at TMHA for Northern Santa Barbara County, said it is “essential and extremely valuable” that the Friendship Line is staffed by peers, because doing so fosters mutual support, non-judgmental acceptance, and a sense of community. Consumers often relate differently to peers than to professionals, and people who have first-hand experience with mental illness can “provide the support of someone who truly understands.”
TMHA leaders plan to hire a bilingual staff member to answer calls for monolingual Spanish speakers, and to eventually expand hours of operation.
The Friendship Line is funded by the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63) through the California Mental Health Services Authority, and is part of the statewide Suicide Prevention Project.
A similar Warmline for South County is coming soon as part of this same project.
Managing Editor Amy Asman compiled this week’s Community Corner. Information should be sent to the Sun via e-mail, fax, or mail.