The needs of youth in crisis or seeking support with mental health issues are met in Victoria through youthspace.ca, an online support network primarily for people under the age of 30.
The project is led by Need2 Suicide Prevention Education & Support, with major funding from the Victoria Foundation.
It offers online peer-to-peer emotional and crisis support, delivered through chat and SMS service, supported by staff. They support young people, whether they are looking for help for themselves or for someone else. The service operates between 6 p.m. and midnight.
Volunteers will not advise young people or tell them what to do, but will offer empathetic support, explore options, assess risks, create safety plans, and make connections to other resources. The program helps reduce risk, teaches positive coping skills, and serves as a portal to life-saving intervention services, when needed.
“Service is essential to saving young lives,” said Justine Thomson, Executive Director. “Last year we responded to over 3,700 inquiries, which speaks volumes about the great need for the program. “
Research shows that the online service allows for increased accessibility and disclosure of issues, compared to face-to-face and telephone support. He is successful in situations involving shame and blame, suicide, self-harm, anxiety, depression, and sexuality.
The site also includes a discussion forum, a safe and supportive space where young people can explore their thoughts, fears, feelings and hear the struggles of others. Staff review all messages to filter identification and triggering of content, and respond to messages with empathy and attention. Parents and other youth advocates can visit the forum to gain insight into some of the issues and challenges facing young people today.
People can also choose to participate in Youth Talk Counseling by email. Offered in partnership with the Pacific Center Family Services Association, Professional Youth Counselors respond by email to establish a supportive relationship online.
“Our program fills a gap in service for youth,” said Thomson. “We try to meet them where they are, to act as a bridge to other resources, to help reduce isolation, reduce self-harm, and in some cases intervene.”
For more information, go to need2.ca/programs/youthspace.
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