KAWARTHA LAKES-Kids Help Phone says language barriers can make it difficult to access mental health supports.
As approximately half of the newcomers fleeing from conflicts in Afghanistan and Ukraine are young people, Kids Help Phone says it identified an urgent need to provide a safe space to speak about their experiences. Kids Help Phone scaled to provide professional phone counselling service, via interpreter, in Dari, Pashto, Russian, and Ukrainian – the first mental health organization to do so in Canada.
“The lives of so many young people have been turned upside down through having to leave, or even flee, their countries. It’s heartbreaking to think about what these young people are going through and how uncertain they may feel. We believe in a future where every young person in Canada can access the support they need, in the way they need it most,” said Katherine Hay, President & CEO of Kids Help Phone. “To make e-mental health support more accessible through language for any young person across Canada is an important step in ensuring equitable access for those who may be most vulnerable. We appreciate the support and the vision of IRCC to enable the expansion of Kids Help Phone’s language offerings to meet a critical need today, with a view of further expansion of more languages in the coming months.
The national youth mental health charity has accelerated the launch of these four languages as part of an immediate crisis response to support young people impacted by the conflicts in Afghanistan and Ukraine. This language expansion is made possible thanks to funding from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), who funded Newcomer Initiatives with the introduction of phone counselling in Arabic and Mandarin at Kids Help Phone since 2019 and extended funding to scale to 100 languages by 2025.
Kids Help Phone supports young people in every province and territory in Canada. As the only national, 24/7 mental health service in French and English for young people in Canada, the organization knows first-hand that for many young people, seeking mental health support is not always easy to do. Officials say there can be stigma for seeking support, and many young people, including newcomers, may not have the language to understand or describe how they are feeling. By launching in-language counselling services for Afghan and Ukrainian newcomers, Kids Help Phone hopes to better serve these brave young people escaping conflict.
“Canada has a proud tradition of welcoming and supporting the world’s most vulnerable. In order to adjust to life in Canada, we need to ensure that newcomers have access to resources to cope with past trauma and rebuild their lives. Creating this culturally-sensitive, accessible safe space is especially important when it comes to vulnerable youth, and this funding will ensure that those fleeing conflict—including Afghans and Ukrainians—have the support they need to reach their full potential while in Canada.” The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Providing in-language counselling in new languages allows Kids Help Phone to be responsive to the needs of refugees coming to Canada in higher numbers. Kids Help Phone stands in solidarity with the millions of people in Canada who have risen to the cause, and is working with settlement service provider organizations to spread the word around our language expansion.
When a young person calls 1-800-668-6868 and presses 3 they will be connected to an interpreter and a professional counsellor. The session will be conducted via interpreter.
To access services in Dari, Pashto, Ukrainian, and/or Russian, young newcomers can call 1-800-668-6868 and press 3 to be connected to a counsellor and an interpreter.