Kids Help Phone ser­vice re­ceives $1m in fund­ing

The Province - - NEWS - NICK EAGLAND neagland@post­media.com twit­ter.com/nick­eagland

For young peo­ple in cri­sis, the need for help of­ten can’t wait.

Since 1989, Kids Help Phone has pro­vided chil­dren and youth with round-the-clock coun­selling and re­fer­ral ser­vices by phone but now, with $1 mil­lion in new fund­ing over three years from its long­time part­ner, Royal Bank of Canada, the or­ga­ni­za­tion is pre­par­ing to ex­pand its on­line live chat ser­vice to meet grow­ing de­mand for text-based help.

The fund­ing comes at a time when more young peo­ple than ever are choos­ing in­stant mes­sag­ing over a phone call to ask for help. In 2017, re­quests for help from a coun­sel­lor via live chat sur­passed re­quests by phone for the first time ever, ac­cord­ing to the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Coun­selling ses­sions last year usu­ally lasted 34 min­utes and there was a 33 per cent in­crease in dis­cus­sion of sui­cide, com­pared to phone calls. But live chat ser­vices have only been avail­able five nights per week from 3 to 11 p.m., with an av­er­age 19-minute wait time.

“There’s tremen­dous de­mand for non-ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion and young peo­ple ... they want to talk with their fin­gers,” said Alisa Si­mon, chief youth of­fi­cer at Kids Help Phone. “We’re re­ally thrilled to have RBC step up and al­low us to pro­vide this ser­vice 24/7 to youth in B.C.”

Kids Help Phone re­ceived an av­er­age of 28 phone calls per day in 2017 from B.C. chil­dren and youth, who also vis­ited its web­site more than 46,000 times to find help. In B.C., they dis­cussed is­sues re­lated to phys­i­cal abuse and vi­o­lence more than young peo­ple in any other prov­ince, ac­cord­ing to the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

By us­ing the ser­vice, dis­tressed chil­dren and youth get to have a one-on-one chat with a trained coun­sel­lor and dis­cuss chal­lenges in their lives that may arise from such things as sex, dat­ing and bul­ly­ing. The coun­sel­lors can then re­fer them to any of 3,000 re­sources in B.C. for fur­ther lo­cal sup­port.

While some youth pre­fer to use non-ver­bal modes of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, oth­ers might need that op­tion be­cause they don’t have much pri­vacy where they live, Si­mon noted.

“Young peo­ple are reach­ing out to us with re­ally se­ri­ous is­sues — anx­i­ety and sui­cide and de­pres­sion and abuse,” Si­mon said.

“The last thing we want any young per­son to do is get a busy sig­nal or to be told that our ser­vice is not avail­able.”

The last thing we want any young per­son to do is get a busy sig­nal or to be told that our ser­vice is not avail­able.”

Alisa Si­mon

ALISA SI­MON

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