Canadian youth can now access mental health support through a free bilingual texting service being rolled out across the country by Kids Help Phone.
The charitable organization is introducing the 24/7 texting support option through a service partnership with U.S. based helpline and technology pioneer Crisis Text Line.
A pilot project begun in February in Manitoba and select provinces has logged more than 13,000 texting conversations between young people seeking help and trained volunteer crisis responders.
The pilot study showed that the most common issues affecting young people were anxiety, relationships and feelings of isolation. Twenty-four per cent of texters reached out because of suicidal thoughts.
The confidential service is accessible by texting TALK to 686868 for an English-speaking crisis responder and TEXTO to 686868 to reach a French-speaking counsellor on any text/SMS- enabled cellphone.
The texting service requires no data plan, Internet connection or app. For many young people, a lack of privacy, unreliable Internet, and limited data plans make it difficult to communicate by phone.
“As we move forward with the national rollout, we are again boldly changing the landscape in virtual care knowing the Canada of tomorrow is depending on how we deal with the mental health needs our youth are facing today,” said Katherine Hay, president and CEO of Kids Help Phone.
Along with the texting option, phone and online Live Chat services remain core programs of Kids Help Phone, providing anonymous and confidential professional counselling to young people across Canada.