University of Guelph students can access a text-based crisis hotline

Students can reach a Kids Help Phone volunteer crisis responder through text

Kids Help Phone website

Students at the University of Guelph will get a chance to pilot a new crisis text line.

Powered by Kids Help Phone, the free service will offer mental health support to U of G students through text message. Additionally, users of the service will communicate with a Kids Help Phone volunteer crisis responder.

The service will operate 24/7. Students can access it by texting “UofG” to 686868 using their text or SMS-enabled device. It doesn’t require a data plan or internet connection. The service is confidential as well.

“University can create a lot of pressure for students, and we’re delighted to offer another source of support to them,” says Alison Burnett, director of student wellness at the University of Guelph.

“We want our students to know that it’s ok to not be ok, and it’s ok to ask for help. And this text service is available whenever they need it.”

Kids Help Phone supervisors will also be present to provide help and support for volunteer crisis responders. The supervisors can also step in to help manage escalated situations.

Canadian insurance group The Co-operators has been an integral partner in setting this up.

“We’re proud to be a founding partner of this important service, which gives young people much-needed access to mental health services in the way they most commonly prefer to connect,” says Barbara Turley-McIntyre, VP of sustainability and citizenship at The Co-Operators.

Kids Help Phone chose to use text messaging to provide the much-needed access because of the way kids communicate.

According to the company’s research, 42 percent of youth prefer to write rather than speak about their problems. On top of that, 71 percent of youth welcome a texting option when discussing problems.

The crisis text line started in Manitoba. The pilot has since expanded to other provinces as Kids Help Phone prepares for a national launch later this year.