December 14, 2018

Support is now just a text away for Canadian youth as the Crisis Text Line, powered by Kids Help Phone, has launched across Canada.

Through a partnership with Canada Health Infoway, the free service is now accessible to youth across Canada in the simple form of a text message. Many donors have also been involved in the majority of costs in order to develop the new service in Canada, which includes BMO Financial Group, Boston Pizza Foundation Future Prospects, Bell Let’s Talk, Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life, RBC Foundation, The Co-operators Group Limited, Telus, Shail Silver and three anonymous donors.

Kids Help Phone service has received more than 13,000 conversations via text since February 2018 when they began testing the crisis text line in Manitoba and other select provinces. The crisis hotline serves people in any type of crisis and has collected one of the largest health data sets in the world.

Texters are placed in an algorithm that assesses their mental state and they are dealt with in order of severity.

Texter contacting the Crisis Text Line from a smartphone (Jessica Towriss/Spoke News)

“Most crisis lines respond to texters in the order in which they arrive. We act more like a hospital emergency room, where a person with a gunshot wound gets helped before a person with a broken leg,” the Crisis Text Line website states. “We call it texter triage. An algorithm runs in the background and assesses a texter’s suicidal risk based on their first few messages. Texters at high risk get marked as ‘code orange’ and move to number one in the queue.”

According to a study from Statistics Canada, nearly 100 per cent of youth ages 15 to 24 use the internet on a daily basis or own a smartphone. After conducting research on youth, the Crisis Text Line discovered that 42 per cent of young people would rather write than speak about their problem and 71 per cent of young people prefer a non-verbal form of communication such as texting. By these statistics, we now understand why the Crisis Text Line is an important service and why it was extended across Canada.

“When I heard about the launch of the Crisis Text Line… I felt a lot of relief,” said Sarah Jeanette, a child and youth care student. “I suffer from a generalized anxiety disorder and there are times when I need someone to talk to and I can’t always get access to a councillor. Some places I have been to, you have to wait a day or two to see a professional and it isn’t convenient when you are in a crisis.”

Jeanette feels the ability to text someone directly from for free and “get a councillor in seconds” should have been introduced a lot sooner.

“I have gone to a few different places and it has cost me money and time. As a college student, I don’t have much time or money to spare. It is more private and easily accessible for people who don’t have enough courage to actually go see a professional face-to-face. It is something that I can definitely see myself and a lot of other kids using,” Jeanette said.

To use the system, follow the steps below.

  • Text HOME to 686868. Your opening message can say anything.
  • The first two messages will be automated, telling you that you’re being connected with a Crisis Councillor, and invite you to share a bit more.
  • After a few minutes, you will reach a Crisis Councillor, they’ll introduce themselves, reflect on what you’ve said, and invite you to share at your own pace.
  • You’ll then text back and forth with the Crisis Responder. You never have to share anything you don’t want to.
  • The Crisis Responder will help you sort through your feelings by asking questions, empathizing, and actively listening.
  • The conversation typically ends when you and the Crisis Responder both feel comfortable deciding that you’re in a “cool,” safe place.
  • The goal of any conversation is to get you to a calm, safe place. Sometimes that means providing you with a referral to further help, and sometimes it just means being there and listening.

WATCH BELOW: TED Talk on how a Crisis Text Line was launched in the U.S.

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