Kids Help Phone, Canada’s most recognized support helpline for children and youth, has just announced a partnership with We Matter, Canada’s only Indigenous-led and Indigenous youth specific mental health and life promotion organization.
According to Deanna Dunham, the manager of Indigenous Initiatives at Kids Help Phone, the idea behind the partnership is to pool resources so the service can better serve Indigenous youth with their materials and tools through We Matter.
While Kids Help Phone has been providing support to Canadian youth since 1989, it’s only been over a year since they started offering support via text throughout all of Canada.
“The majority of Indigenous youth we support are through texts. These texts are addressed by trained volunteer crisis responders who are monitored in real time by professional counselors. The texts are confidential, but we can’t say that they are anonymous because the number is captured in our system so the duty to report is in place and we engage in 10 active rescues a day through text,” explained Dunham.
In terms of volume, Dunham said the helpline has about 1,000 Indigenous conversations a month. In terms of wait times, she said that texting is the fastest way to get help.
“We respond to the majority of texts in less than five minutes. We encourage people to contact us that way because the messages are also triaged by AI and if a conversation is identified as high risk it is usually answered within a minute. It is a great system,” said Dunham.
Through We Matter, the responders and counselors are receiving more culturally appropriate materials to be able to better help Indigenous youth. Not only are the crisis responders at Kids Help Phone trained to be able to react appropriately to any situation presented, they are also given what was called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as “cultural competency training” to better serve their Indigenous clientele.
Kids Help Phone has trained about 1,900 crisis responders, who work under the supervision of qualified professional counselors with either an MA or equivalent in the field of counseling.
While Kids Help Phone does have some Indigenous staff workers, Dunham says they are looking to recruit more Indigenous responders and counselors. The majority work from home and live on reserve. The idea is to progressively be able to connect more Indigenous youth with Indigenous help.
According to Tunchai Redvers, co-founder and executive director of We Matter, the organization is the largest of its kind in Canada. It has made all kinds of culturally specific resources available, many of which are online. Their primary function has been to provide a platform for prominent Indigenous role models and figures to make videos about their own stories for Indigenous youth. These videos are made by people who want to share their messages of hope and tales of overcoming hardship.
“The idea is that when Indigenous youth call the helpline, there may not be an Indigenous person on staff but the counselor can connect them with those videos as a resource,” said Redvers.
On the We Matters website, over 300 videos are available on all kinds of subjects so that youth can access content on something they might be experiencing, such as addiction or bullying. Everyone is welcome to make their own video if they have a message they want to share. They can join the ranks of video participants who include Ashley Callingbull, Jordin Tootoo and Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas.
To access the Kids Help Phone text line, text the word “CONNECT” to 686868. To speak with someone directly call 1-800-668-6868.