We always talk about how the world is moving more and more online, and away from face-to-face interaction. Having grown up in the 80’s, I know this is true – I’ve seen the transition with my own eyes! It makes me feel really old to say this, but I remember when our family got our first computer (like when my dad used to say he remembered getting his first colour TV!!). So yes, I’ve definitely seen the progression from just having a computer with some simple games and a word processor, to the way the internet has become absolutely integral to our day-to-day lives. However, it didn’t quite hit me just how far things had gone, until about a month ago, when I went home for Christmas, and spent some time with my grandmother. My grandmother (who, by the way, still has a rotary phone in her home), now has a tablet… and a Facebook account, and knows how to use Google, and has even figured out how to text me from an app!
So if my 85 year old grandmother has caught on to it, I can only imagine how intuitive online interaction must be for young people, particularly those who grew up with it at their fingertips from the time they were children. We know from research that young people spend a significant amount of time online and on their cell phones; many even choosing to sleep with them in their beds at night. It’s also become the fastest and most popular way to seek out information, including sometimes sensitive information about mental health.
So - if you are a person who is struggling with their mental health, and who has grown up primarily communicating via text, email, online chat and all sorts of social media channels, I wonder how comfortable you might be picking up a phone to talk to someone about what you’re struggling with? Would you find it easier to send off an email, or join an online chat, or even text someone?
The good news is that the mental health world is starting to better understand the needs and preferences of young people, and is adapting accordingly to meet those needs. Web-based forms of support for mental health are now available through a number of organizations which used to operate solely in-person or via telephone. If you, or someone you know is looking for online support, check out some of the great options below:
- FamilySmart Youth and Parents in Residence at the Kelty Centre – offer email support (Monday to Friday, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm) and regular tweet chats (#Mindchat).
- Kids Help Phone live chat from your computer or smartphone (trained, bilingual counsellors available Wednesday to Sunday from 3 pm – 11pm) and Always There app.
- Looking Glass online peer support groups for eating disorders/disordered eating - free, regularly-scheduled online peer support service that provides an accessible, anonymous, and non-threatening alternative to conventional support groups.
- Youth in BC Online Chat - Online chat service that provides 1-on-1 chat with a trained volunteer from the Crisis Centre of BC from 12 pm – 1 am daily.
- Youthspace - Online chat and text service available daily from 6 pm to midnight. Operated by a community of professionally-trained volunteers and staff who are here to listen without judgement and offer support. All volunteers are certified in ASIST (Applied Suicide Interventions Skills Training). Support is also available via email, or within the moderated group forum space.
Do you know about other online chat, email or text options for youth that you find useful? If so, let us know about them? We would love to hear from you!
Please note that the online support options listed above are not intended to provide 24/7 emergency support. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, dial 9-1-1, visit your local emergency room, or call the crisis line at 310-6789 from anywhere in BC (no area code required).