When needed, support for youths is only a text away

Photo by Dominic Owens.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, research done by Kids Help Phone has found that 42 per cent of young people would rather write than speak about their problems.

In fact, their research found that 71 per cent of young people prefer non-verbal forms of communication, such as texting. This is precisely why Kids Help Phone has been service-testing their Crisis Text Line in select provinces across the country since February of 2018.

“The service is provided by trained, volunteer Crisis Responders who engage in empathetic listening to help bring a texter from a hot moment to a cool calm,” Kids Help Phone said in a press release.

“Paid, professional Texting Supervisors monitor the texting platform and are ready to step in should a situation escalate.”

Since the beginning of the pilot program, more than 13,000 text conversations have taken place through the service. And the results of those conversations have shown that the Crisis Text Line is in such demand that Kids Help Phone has rolled out the service nationally in both English and French.

“Kids Help Phone has been speaking with young people every day, in every community across Canada since 1989, adapting and innovating to provide them with the mental health support solutions that suit them best,” said Katherine Hay, president and CEO of Kids Help Phone.

“With our pilot of Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone, we set out to meet youth where they need us most, and the response has shown us that this is a vital support service for young people in Canada.”

While some of the findings from the pilot of the project are staggering, they are indicative of just how necessary the Crisis Text Line is for today’s youth. According to the findings of the pilot, the most common issues that young people address through text conversations with a volunteer Crisis Responder were related to anxiety, relationships, and feelings of isolation. Suicidal thoughts accounted for 24 per cent of the reasons youths connected with the Crisis Text Line. And during the pilot, necessary crisis intervention resulted in a professional supervisor stepping in to conduct one or two active rescues on a daily basis.

“This is seen as one or two lives being saved every day,” Kids Help Phone explained.

Surveys completed by those youth who used the service after their support sessions included the following key findings:

  • Reduction in Stress Levels: 86 per cent of participants reported a meaningful reduction in stress after finishing a texting conversation with a Crisis Responder.
  • Improved Mood: 87 per cent of respondents reported feeling at least one of the following categories after having communication with a Crisis Responder:  less alone, less distressed, less upset, more hopeful, more confident and more in-control.
  • Increased Confidence: 52 per cent of respondents said that they felt confident that they could now cope with their situations after a texting conversation.
  • Service Satisfaction: 83 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with the service they received, and 81 per cent said they were likely to recommend the texting service to a friend.
  • Early Intervention: 78 per cent of respondents said had they not engaged in a texting support session they would have done one of the following: managed the issue on their own, not spoken to anyone; ignored the issue and hoped it got better or went away. Additionally, seven per cent of users said they would have gone to the emergency room.

Even more encouraging is how accessible the now-nationally-available program is. The Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone requires no data plan, internet connection, or app. This is particularly important for those young people living in rural and remote communities, but it also addresses the issues that lack of privacy, unreliable internet bandwidth, and limited data plans can pose, making it difficult for youths to communicate.

And with 70 per cent of mental health issues being known to begin in childhood and adolescence, early intervention can lessen or prevent a worsening of those issues, Kids Help Phone said.

“Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone will give young people across Canada access to a much-needed and first of its kind texting support service,” said Michael Green, president and CEO of Canada Health Infoway.

“We are proud to partner with Kids Help Phone to usher in this new dawn in mental health support service delivery.”

Through partnering with Health Infoway, and thanks to the support of donors, Crisis Text Line is now available for free, 24/7, for youths across Canada. To contact the Text Line, text TALK to 686868 to reach an English-speaking Crisis Responder, or TEXTO to 686868 to reach a French-speaking Crisis Responder on any text/SMS enabled cell phone.

Additionally, bilingual Texting Supervisors and volunteer Crisis Responders are needed as Kids Help Phone rolls out the service nationally. Anyone interested in volunteering, donating to support Kids Help Phone or wanting more information on Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone is encouraged to visit kidshelpphone.ca/text.

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