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Article / January 28, 2014 / Project number: 13-0151

Ottawa, Ontario — “Crisis intervention, supportive counselling, and helping people who aren’t sure what direction to go in if they are trying to get the answer to a question. In a nutshell that’s our job,” explains Cpl (ret) Suzanne Richard, one of the professionally trained counsellors of the Family Information Line (FIL).

The Family Information Line is a 24/7 service available to family members of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members. It is staffed by bilingual experienced professionals who are well-versed on CAF communities and services.

 “We’re here essentially to support military members and their families in any way we can, ” explains Cpl (ret) Richard.

Many FIL counsellors like Rachelle Decoeur have had some of the same experiences she hears about over the phone.

My husband is in the military; he’s been in for over 20 years and he’s retiring in August. I have a lot of family in the military. I can empathize better with a deployment because I have lived through deployments as a military spouse and as a family member of a military member. I guess I can understand it because I’ve lived it.” 

Christine Sulek-Popov is another Army spouse who answers calls at the FIL. She understands what it can be like to move to a new city and lose the network you once relied on. 

When you’re moving all the time and you leave your friends and your social circle, you don’t really have your community and you have to find new ways of making a community,” explains Sulek-Popov. “It takes a lot of resilience to be a military spouse.” 

She feels it is valuable to have a service available by phone and e-mail any time of day because crises don’t always happen during standard business hours.

They normally happen at 2 a.m. when nobody is answering the phone and that is when the Family Information Line can be most useful, ” says Sulek-Popov.

Decoeur feels that callers open up to counsellors on the phone or by email because of the anonymity of not seeing their faces.

People are sometimes more comfortable in speaking up because we can’t see them. It’s completely confidential,  explains Decoeur.

These counsellors feel gratified by the ability to help others.

I would say that is the best part of the job - to hear someone say that you’ve done something that helped them. Ninety-nine percent of the time they say thank you before they hang up,” explains Cpl (ret) Richard.

You get to know people when they are not at their best and having them talk to you again when they are at their best is a really nice perk. They can say ‘Guess what? I’m pregnant’ or ‘Let me tell you about this great thing that has happened.’ It’s a good feeling,” Sulek-Popov adds.  “It’s a real joy to be able to help people find their groove.” 

“I would just like to invite people to call here anytime they need the answer to a question and they are not to sure what direction to go in. Anytime they want to talk to somebody or they are feeling overwhelmed - feel free, it’s anonymous, ” says Cpl (ret) Richard.

The Family Information Line is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week by contacting 1-800-866-4546 in North America, or overseas by calling collect at 1-613-995-5234 or by e-mailing  Counsellors will connect families with national and local community resources, including the Military Family Resource Centre in the callers’ area.

Also available at the same number is a 24-hour service with detailed recorded messages about deployed operations in Canada and abroad.  Message boxes have information about the deployment experience of military personnel and will have up-to-date confirmation of news releases, information on incidents and periodic situation reports.

By Samantha Bayard, Army Public Affairs

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