Picture this. In this virtual world, you’re catching up with a friend or family member via a video call, when they quietly raise their hand, tuck in their thumb and close their other fingers over their thumb. What does that mean?
Stay calm but understand that it is a cry for help.
Since the start of the pandemic, social isolation has made it more difficult for those in domestic violence and abuse situations to safely reach out for help. Signal for Help was started by the Canadian Women’s Foundation as a silent way to indicate distress for people caught up in domestic violence situations. Calling for help is often a difficult thing to do for those in distress—not only because of mental or physical barriers, but because of the digital trace a non-silent cry for help can leave.
If I see the signal, should I call the authorities right away?
No. Signal for Help means asking someone to safely check in with them. While the person using the signal may want you to call the authorities, do not assume that’s what they want. They might want to talk, need information or ask you to help them find services.
Did you know?
Last fall, the gesture was used by an abducted U.S. girl who was travelling by car with her kidnapper—a story that luckily ended well when a passerby recognized the signal and alerted the authorities. This instance shows that Signal for Help is not exclusively meant for domestic violence situations; it can be used by people of all genders to indicate distress in any circumstances.
Unfortunately, this signal is not a one-size-fits-all solution as not everyone may be able to use the gesture for a variety of reasons. If you suspect that someone you know may need help, you can still reach out to them safely to find out what they need from you.
Signal for Help has been shared by organizations around the world in the hopes of making it an international signal of distress. As a proponent of mental and physical wellness, Alberta Blue Cross wants to play a role in spreading awareness about it. The signal has already saved lives and it will continue to do so—if we are aware of its existence.
For more information, visit the Canadian Women’s Foundation website.