Victoria hotline offers sounds to inspire joy and calm during pandemic

Anyone feeling isolated and stressed out over the pandemic can call a phone hotline and hear sounds meant to inspire joy and calm, thanks to a project by the City of Victoria’s artist in residence.

Those who call 1-877-2BE-CALM can choose from a selection of nine soothing auditory experiences, including contemporary music by Canadian artists, nature sounds, poetry spoken in English or French, children’s laughter, guided meditation and Indigenous stories and songs.

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“It is a project that I hope will add joy — and hopefully a smile — in people’s lives,” said artist in residence Kathryn Calder, a musician who performs solo and as a member of The New Pornographers and Frontperson. “It has been such an isolating time for many people, especially older adults. My hope is the phone line will help connect our communities until we can all be together again.”

She said the inspiration for the project came from a friend telling her about a teacher who would call isolated individuals to tell jokes over the phone.

She opted for the telephone over an online platform because it’s more accessible by older adults, her target audience.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on mental health in Canada and around the world, as some people have lost their jobs, while others struggle with fears for their health, or feelings of social isolation.

Dr. Frederick Grouzet, associate professor in the department of psychology at the University of Victoria, says listening to music or taking a walk can be beneficial alongside treatment.

“The idea of a person relaxing with calming sounds as a way to reduce anxiety is an interesting concept and can be beneficial in the short term for patients.”

Sounds on the hotline were chosen by Calder from a variety of sources. “The main criteria I used was that they had to be uplifting,” said Calder, 38, who grew up in Fairfield.

Options include audio selections from local storytellers, such as the story of the Salish wool dog by Coast Salish artist Dylan Thomas (Qwul’thilum), the city’s Indigenous Artist in Residence.

To encourage people to return, the content will be changed periodically, with a variety of new sounds added until the project ends in July.

Calder is inviting parents to send recording of their children’s laughter so they can be included in a future phone-line audio track.

The $10,000 cost of the project was covered by the artist in residence program’s annual budget.

Calling the hotline is free. Dial 1-877-2BE-CALM (1-877-223-2256) and select 1 to 9 for each menu item. For information on the project, go to victoria.ca/becalm.

parrais@ttimescolonist.net

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