British Columbia

Youth counselling service introduces 24/7 online chat to meet demands

In response to the number of Canadian youth wanting to connect with counsellors online as opposed to by phone, Kids Help Phone will now offer their live chat 24/7.

'Kids in B.C. are also talking about violence and abuse more often than young people in any other province'

Kids Help Phone will offer 24/7 online chat service. (iStock/Getty Images)

In response to the number of Canadian youth wanting to connect with counsellors online as opposed to by phone, Kids Help Phone will now offer their live chat service 24/7.

The youth counselling service first introduced online chat five years ago.

"We saw more and more young people who were wanting to speak using their fingers and not their voice," said Alisa Simon, the chief youth officer at Kids Help Phone.

"Anyone that has a teenager knows that young people are more likely to reach out to you in a non-verbal way than they are to call. What Kids Help Phone really is wanting to do is to provide as many entry points into our service as possible."

Online chat was previously available five days a week between 3-11 p.m. Simon told Early Edition host Stephen Quinn the service didn't fully meet Canadian youth's needs.

"For a lot of young people, it's the middle of the night. Either they can't sleep or they wake up with anxiety or incredible sadness, where they really want to reach out and our live chat service wasn't available and now it will be."

Kids Help Phone says requests for online chat have now passed requests for phone counsellors. (Kids Help Phone)

Common struggles for B.C. youth

Simon says that the number one reason kids in B.C. reach out has to do with issues surrounding anxiety, a finding that is accurate for youth across Canada.

However, B.C. differs from the rest of the country when it comes to calls related to suicide.

"The number two reason is suicide and suicide-related topics and for other provinces, that's actually the third reason. Kids in B.C. are also talking about violence and abuse more often than young people in any other province," said Simon.

She adds that online chats often take three to four times longer than phone calls and the subject matter is usually heavier.

"The young people who reach out through chat, they're often reaching out with the most serious problems: abuse, suicide, neglect. So we want to make sure we are there for them to find a safe, trusted adult and professional to speak to at any time of need," said Simon.

Private donations

The expansion is possible thanks to $1 million donation by the Royal Bank of Canada.

It allows the 24/7 online chat to operate for a trial period, during which Kids Help Phone will be able to assess the demand for the service and its impact on youth.

Simon says they are actively pursuing future donations in order to see the expansion continue.

You can listen to the full interview below;

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