The Family Information Line (FIL) operates 24/7 with no exception over the holiday season. The telephone and email service is available in both official languages to military families, military members and Veterans, and to community members that support them.
The FIL is about more than crisis intervention, although that is certainly a function of the service.
“People contact us during the holiday season and throughout the year for answers to any and all questions related to the military lifestyle. Yes, they call when they are in crisis, but they also call when they just need a simple answer like where to find a local parent and tot group,” said Myriam-Mélanie Rousseau, Manager of the Family Information Line, Military Family Services. “That’s what we are here for. To answer questions and provide support.”
During the season, some military families face the challenge of being separated from family and friends, or the military member may be away on operational duties. Perhaps the local Military Family Resource Centre is closed, and a family would like to find a welcoming place to socialize or share Christmas dinner; counsellors can refer them to alternative organizations within their communities.
The experienced FIL staff receives inquiries from Canadian military families all over the world. Once on the line with a caller, counsellors have a very short amount of time to make a meaningful connection. A successful interaction between counsellor and caller is about quickly establishing trust at the onset of the conversation.
“We don’t ask for names, and everything we talk about is confidential. Some people are still under the misconception the chain of command is somehow briefed. This is not true. Of course, by Canadian law, we must report if someone is going to harm themselves or others. If a child is being abused or neglected we will report that situation,” said Rousseau.
All FIL email is directed to a private mailbox monitored by the FIL staff. Emails, like the phone calls, that come in to the FIL are varied and may be about any subject pertaining to the military family lifestyle – from reaching a military member in a family emergency situation to inquiries about how to obtain tutoring for a struggling military child.
FIL counsellors are mental health professionals trained to adjust their approach according to the needs of the person on the other end of the line. Sometimes callers are seeking referrals to helping professionals in their communities, some need reassurance, and others ask if they may call back.
“Through limited repeat appointments we have the capacity to support people until they are able to get appointments set up with helping professionals in their local communities,” said Rousseau. “Also, if someone contacts us looking for a piece of information we don’t immediately have at our fingertips, with their permission, we call them back. Because we are open 24/7 we are flexible and can make appointments that fit caller’s lives and schedules.”
Introduced in 2013, the FIL is managed by Military Family Services, a division of Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services. The FIL may be accessed 24/7 by calling 1-800-866-4546 in North America, 1-613-995-5234 collect calls, 00-800-771-17722 internationally or by emailing [email protected].