2023 marks the 20th Anniversary of Child Helpline International. To celebrate this momentous occasion, we invited some of our members – from all around the world, founding members and members who have recently joined us – to share their stories in a special series.
KIDS HELP PHONE, CANADA
Kids Help Phone offers 24/7 confidential e-mental health support to young people across Canada through phone, text, chat, a peer-to-peer forum and resources on our website. No issue is too big or feeling too small to reach out for support.
Before 1989, young people experiencing abuse in Canada had no safe place to go. Knowing that many young people were staying silent and not receiving the support they truly needed, Kids Help Phone (KHP) opened its phone line in 1989 to ensure every young person in Canada had a safe place to turn. It was the first telephone counselling service dedicated to young people and was available 24/7. The KHP model was revolutionary because it allowed young people to be fully anonymous and connect with a professional counsellor, offering them safety and control at a time when they needed it most.
Although KHP started specifically for young people impacted by abuse, we quickly learned that they needed a place to bring all of their challenges. In KHP’s first year, the number one reason young people called us was for support with their mental and emotional health, and that has never changed. The need for our services has never decreased – in fact, we have seen demand for services skyrocket, particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Over the past few decades, kids have continued to change fast and technology has evolved even faster. For over 34 years, KHP has adapted, staying relevant to young people and meeting them where they are. Innovation is in our DNA. What we offer today, and what young people need, is e-mental health services and supports that meet them exactly where they are. Toward that end, we have launched new services like chat, Resources Around Me and programs in schools and communities across the country. In 2018, we launched our texting service, which this month, reached it’s one millionth texting conversation.
Our partnership with Child Helpline International connects us with other organizations who do similar work. It has allowed us to share ideas and learn from other helplines. An example of the Child Helpline International network at work is when KHP built its peer-to-peer platform, a moderated forum that allows young people to anonymously share experiences or connect on any issue affecting them. KHP worked with Childline UK, another Child Helpline International member, to learn from their expertise. That service is on track to have more than 200,000 interaction this year. More recently, KHP has been working with Child Helpline International and other member helplines to build Aselo, the first-ever global, purpose-built technology to support youth counselling helplines around the globe. This technology will help provide more immediate, accessible and innovative support to young people experiencing mental health challenges
Over my 12 years at KHP, I have worked closely with Child Helpline International and have sat on many committees throughout these years. I served as the Deputy Regional Representative for the Americas & Caribbean and each time I participated, I gleaned information to help KHP grow to better serve youth in Canada.
Knowing that young people across Canada, and globally, are experiencing a mental health crisis, I often marvel at the incredible impact of learning from helplines around world who, like KHP, are committed to young people’s wellbeing and safety. When I think about the future of e-mental health and our leading role in it, I am confident we will continue building out services that meet the needs of the tremendous diversity across Canada, alongside Child Helpline International and our global peers.
Executive Vice President, E-Mental Health Transformation & Chief Youth Officer
Kids Help Phone
Voices of Children and Young People
“Hey, you really made a difference in the way I think tonight. Before speaking with you I was really struggling to connect and feel heard with my troubling thoughts. Afterwards, I feel like someone out there cares and that I could try recovery. I want you to know that even though what you do may be challenging and hard at times, you are greatly appreciated and you do make an impact in the people you talk to.“