Kids Help Phone service receives $1m in funding
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.”