Dial HOPE for help
Kugluktuk has a new suicide help line

Maria Canton
Northern News Services

Kugluktuk (May 08/00) - Residents of Kugluktuk can now dial 982-HOPE when they are in need of help.

The idea to resurrect a volunteer suicide prevention phone line came to Harold Coomber after attending a week-long suicide prevention workshop in the Kitikmeot community last month.

"While at the workshop it was mentioned that there was a line available for a suicide hotline, but it wasn't running," said Coomber, who is an Ordained Minister with the Pentecostal Holiness Church of Canada and has run distress lines in the past.

"I thought about it and realized there was a need for one and that I could set it up in our house."

Coomber, who works as an alcohol, drug and suicide counsellor at the local Awareness Centre, answers the late night and early morning calls with his wife Arlene.

He says they call it the Hopeline, "because if people can't remember the number, they can just dial Hope."

In the three weeks that the line has been installed and the Coomber's have been advertising on television, radio and with posters, the phone has been ringing on a steady basis.

"It's certainly ringing, and at first at lot of the calls were from people who were curious. Now we have people calling who want to talk or are in distress," he said.

"I think if we see a decrease in suicide attempts or suicides then I believe it's doing something -- it's hard to tell whose life you're going to touch."

For more than a year the community hasn't had a suicide line -- a lack of volunteers and space stopped the service that has a history of fits and starts.

Mayor Joanne Taptuna says she is very happy to see a suicide phone line running again.

"I would say the line is working, I know Harold is getting calls, so it is being used," said Taptuna, who helped Kugluktuk cope with the suicides of two people in mid-March.

"People know the line is there to help them and for people like me and many others who are concerned about suicide. This is good, it will help."