01/30/2015 09:00 EST | Updated 04/01/2015 05:59 EDT

Crisis line itself in crisis, say organizers

Almost one-quarter of all calls to Edmonton's 24-hour distress line are not being answered because of a lack of funding and volunteers, according to the organization that runs it. 

Representatives for The Support Network, the umbrella group that oversees the distress line, say 12,300 calls came in during 2014. An estimated 3,000 of those calls went unanswered.

“My concern is that we're going to see more people at risk of distress as the economy goes south and the city is growing as well,” said executive director Nancy McCalder.

“We are going to see more people reaching out for help.”

Right now, the 24-hour distress line relies on core funding of $300,000 split three ways among AHS, the United Way and the City of Edmonton.

The organization relies on an additional $200,000 in fundraising. McCalder said they need $200,000 and dozens more volunteers to improve the service.

One city councillor was surprised to hear that a service set up for people in desperate of help now needs help of its own.

“For me, personally, I’ve lost a brother to suicide and I hope that any of us who have family members that need help when they need it the most, is it available?” said Bev Esslinger.

“Because if they get that empty line, what's their next step?”

City council voted to put intercoms on the High Level Bridge in December.

Esslinger said she will now be asking questions to make sure calls from those intercoms are also well-supported.

The Support Network said 30 per cent of the calls it receives are suicide-related.