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Mental Health Emergency Service, Crisis Text Line, Launches in Canada

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On Tuesday, Crisis Text Line launched a new service in Canada to support young people in crisis nationwide. It’s the first text-based mental health emergency service available in the country and was created based on research by the mental health organization Kids Help Phone, which found 71 percent of youth would prefer to communicate via text about their struggles.

Kids Help Phone partnered with the U.S.-based Crisis Text Line to get the Canadian line off the ground. Crisis Text Line has committed to partnering with other countries to expand access to mental health crisis services globally. It plans to launch an additional Crisis Text Line in the U.K. in 2018, and is currently seeking volunteers.

Canada’s Crisis Text Line began as a pilot in February in Manitoba before adding Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nunavut and the Atlantic Provinces. According to The Globe and Mail, the service has already supported 13,000 text conversations since its launch.

To get help, users text HOME (or anything) to 686868 and, after responding to two automated messages, are connected with a trained crisis responder. According to its website, the wait time to talk to a crisis responder is five minutes or less unless there’s high traffic. As of Tuesday, the Crisis Text Line was available nationwide, and averages around 1,000 texts each week.

So far the service has been a success. From its initial pilot, Crisis Text Line and Kids Help Phone found that youth most often texted about anxiety and depression with 24 percent of users expressing suicidal thoughts. Initial data also found that 78 percent of the young people who texted the helpline said if they weren’t able to text — and instead had to call — they wouldn’t have reached out at all.

In an effort to make this critical service available to young people nationwide, Crisis Text Line has trained responders who speak both English and French. The service does not require a data plan, internet connection or an app. This was intentional to ensure youth in remote areas without access to reliable internet connections can still use the service.

“Young people increasingly want to use the technology they carry around with them every single day, and they want to use that technology to reach out if they need support or help,” Alisa Simon, chief youth officer at Kids Help Phone, told The Daily Globe and Mail. “We know there’s tremendous demand for this kind of support.”

Though the service is marketed toward young people, no age restrictions have been advertised.

Header image via Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash.

Originally published: November 9, 2018
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