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Crisis support now a 4-letter text away for Nunavut youth

Kids Help Phone has launched a new texting service in Nunavut to help young people who need to talk through their challenges, and it’s already gaining traction in the territory.

Service available in English only, but Kids Help Phone says referrals can be made to Inuktitut service

Young people in Nunavut can now text the word 'talk' to 686868 to have a text conversation with a trained, volunteer crisis responder about whatever challenges they might be facing. (iStock/Getty Images)

Kids Help Phone has launched a new texting service in Nunavut to help young people who need to talk through their challenges, and it's already gaining traction in the territory.

On Thursday, Alisa Simon, vice-president of service innovation, said about 15 youth in Nunavut had taken part in text conversations with the organization in the previous 24 hours.

Kids Help Phone offers anonymous, 24-hour counselling services by phone, web chat, and now youth across the country can talk to trained, volunteer crisis responders over text.

Simon said Kids Help Phone started piloting the Crisis Text Line program in Manitoba four months ago.

Recently, someone from Nunavut reached out to the organization to tell them about suicides in the territory, and asked if it could bring the texting service to young people there.

So, the organization jumped on board.

"We know that many young people in that territory, and all over Canada, want to be able to text for help," said Simon. "We thought, we now have this service, we've proven that it works in Manitoba, let's not go another day thinking that there's not support available."

Simon said any young person in Nunavut can text the word "talk" to 686868 to chat with a trained volunteer.

No service in Inuktitut

However, the service is not offered in Inuktitut. It is only available in English, with French services scheduled to roll out later this year.

Simon said if someone reaches out to Kids Help Phone and needs Inuktitut services, it can refer them to the Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Help Line.

She said she understands the English service won't meet the needs of all young people in Nunavut, but added she thinks it is helping.

Staff with the help line are also being taught about reconciliation and the issues Indigenous peoples across Canada face.

"We know we don't have all the answers," said Simon. "But we know that it is our responsibility to be part of some of the solutions and conversations."

With files from Nick Murray

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