New Brunswick

Kids Help Phone launches nationwide texting program for youth in crisis

Kids Help Phone, a helpline for youth under the age of 18 seeking counselling, has added texting to its online and telephone services.

Kids seeking help from youth counselling service can now text free of charge

Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone is a new, confidential service, allowing young people access to support through text messaging free of charge 24 hours a day. (Kids Help Phone)

Kids Help Phone, an organization that offers online and telephone counselling to Canadian youth, has launched a new nationwide texting service.

The free, confidential service, which launched Nov. 6, gives kids the opportunity to text a request for help instead of calling — a service the helpline needed to make, according to the organization's Atlantic regional director.

Shelley Richardson said kids reported being happier and less stressed with the texting program.

She said kids still call the helpline a lot, but texting has become the preferred method of communication.

Kids Help Phone partnered with American helpline Crisis Text Line to develop the service, a first of its kind in Canada.

After launching it in Manitoba in February and a short test in the Atlantic region last month, the not-for-profit helpline decided to launch it nationally. 

Young people who are in need of help can now text "Talk" to 686868, or call the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868. Shelley Richardson is the Atlantic provinces regional director for Kids Help Phone. 7:29

There are more than 600 volunteers and another 200 hundred in training for the 24-hour bilingual helpline. Those new volunteers will start in December.

"They are all supervised by a professional counsellor," she said.

Volunteers have one four-hour shift every week for a year, according to Richardson.

"We are rapidly vamping up," she said.

The new program has come at a cost, she said. Kids Help Phone has to hire counsellors to oversee the conversations, and those counsellors can be monitoring up to six to seven conversation at a time depending on their experience.

"We are actively seeking funding to carry out the service," she said.

According to its website, the helpline relies on donations from individuals, businesses, clubs and foundations to keep its services running.

Seeking bilingual volunteers

The texting service is also looking for more bilingual volunteers across the country.

She said those volunteers and counsellors are there to help move kids from a "hot moment" to a "cool moment." They train to de-escalate a situation before getting the person more permanent help.

The texting service, the live chat online and the phone are all available 24 hours a day.

Kids who wish to text a volunteer can send the word "text" to 686868. If they wish to speak to someone in French, they can text the word "texto" to the same number. Anyone seeking help can also call 1-800-668-6868.

— With files from Information Morning Moncton 

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