Every year more than 10,000 youths from 183 B.C. communities reach out for help and advice from the free professional counsellors at Kids Help Phone.
The service is provided across Canada on a 24 hour, seven day a week basis by the non-profit society. The callers have a full range of mental health issues, from anxiety, depression and suicidal feelings to bullying, harassment and family problems.
All of the services are anonymous and nonjudgmental, and can lead to referrals if the caller expresses the desire for direct or one-on-one assistance.
There is also a chat line at the society’s website which was visited by over 80,000 B.C. youths last year. The chat line is not 24/7, however, as it currently operates Wednesday to Sunday from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The Kids Help Phone society is aiming to expand these services, as well as awareness of the services among B.C. youth.
With this aim in mind volunteers across B.C. and Canada are organizing a May 1 “Walk so Kids can Talk” public event.
In the Fraser Valley, volunteer chair Martin Straith is organizing the “Walk so Kids Can Talk presented by BMO” at Aldergrove Regional Park on Sunday, May 1. The five kilometre walk will begin at 11 a.m. on the Pepin Brook Trail, and there will be a variety of other fun events happening that day at the park.
“We will have games, a soccer shooting wall, bouncy castle, volleyball and more,” said Straith. “One of our sponsors, KalTire, will have a barbecue lunch for a $3 donation to the cause and there will be free water.”
The Fraser Valley edition of the event has a maximum capacity of 500 participants due to parking limitations at the park, and pre-registration is encouraged. Participants can register and print out pledge forms at the walk website, http://walksokidscantalk.ca/.
“Our objectives are to raise awareness, as some may not know of it. Also only 23 per cent of our callers are male — 74 per cent are female and three per cent are trans-gendered — so there are new services being looked at,” said Straith.
“For example, we want to introduce “Bro Talk” to reduce the stigma and perceived barriers for guys to reaching out for help.”
Another goal of the seven B.C. walks planned this year is to increase fundraising, so that services are not only maintained, but expanded for new programs such as Bro Talk.
Founded May 16, 1989, Kids Help Phone provides anonymous phone and online counselling, as well as information services for children and youth. However, as a charity, Kids Help Phone receives no core government or United Way funding. Instead, it relies on the support of community-based volunteers and individual and corporate donors for financial support.
Straith has been reaching out to schools in Abbotsford and Langley to become involved. There is a Semiahmoo leadership group which put together a team to raise funds, and Straith is hoping for more to follow this example.
“We’ve got a nice footing this year and plan to really ramp it up next year,” said Straith.
The Kids Help Phone toll-free line is 1-800-668-6868 and the website is http://org.kidshelpphone.ca/.