Kids Help Phone will be offering their live chat service 24/7 in Canada by the end of 2018, as more youth turn to counsellors through instant messaging rather than over the phone.
“[We’ve been] doing about half of our service through phone and half through live chat,” chief youth officer Alisa Simon said.
The nationwide youth counselling service started the online instant-messaging option for 40 hours a week in 2013, after seeing more young people wanting to reach out “with their fingers instead of their voice,” she said.
The response was huge. “They were reaching out with really serious concerns – a lot of conversations about suicide, abuse and neglect.”
So many youth prefer instant messaging because of the increased sense of anonymity, Simon said, and because they aren’t comfortable speaking about their problem and can review the conversation.
Simon said round-the-clock service, thanks to a $1-million donation by the Royal Bank of Canada, will especially help youth in B.C., who could only use it until 11 p.m. previously.
“What we found was that a lot of youth were coming to the chat service when it would be closed,” Simon said. But those kids wouldn’t necessarily call the 24/7 phone line.
In 2017, eight per cent of the instant messaging sessions at Kids Help Phone came from B.C. – a number anticipated to increase.
Kids in Canada are most likely to reach out to counsellors with issues of anxiety. Suicide is often the third most common issue in other provinces, but it’s the second most common in B.C. More youth here also speak out on abuse than in the rest of the country.
“The good news is that every time those young people reach out to us, we have a moment where we’re able to save their lives,” Simon said. “The courage that it takes those young people to reach out in those really dark moments is really important to us.”
Youth can visit kidshelpphone.ca to chat with a counsellor, or call 1-800-668-6868.
If you or anyone you know needs support for depression or suicide-related mental health problems, call the Canadian Assistance in Suicide Prevention 24/7 hotline at 1-888-353-2273.