BC announces service to aid in students’ mental health
By Atiba Nelson, Staff Reporter
An American College Health Association survey of Canadian post-secondary students found that roughly 60 percent of respondents felt things were hopeless sometime within the last twelve months, and more than 60 percent of respondents felt overwhelmed by anxiety over the same time period.
And this was in 2016, before COVID-19 disrupted the academic term.
To help combat the loneliness due to social distancing and the anxiety created by uncertain times, the BC government launched Here2Talk, a free counselling and referral service for post-secondary students that is open 24 hours, seven days a week.
Here2Talk services can be accessed by app, phone, or online chat. Callers can speak to a counsellor by phone, toll-free at 1-877-857-3397 or 604-642-5212, additionally, the service is even available to Canadian post-secondary students outside of the country— at +1-604-642-5212.
“Until now, post-secondary students have never had access to 24/7 provincewide mental-health support services, [but have] advocated for years to fill the gap in available mental-health counselling services in British Columbia,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training at the press conference debuting Here2Talk. She continued on saying, “with the advent of COVID-19 and the increased stress it puts on students, we doubled down to get students the supports they so desperately need.”
The debut of Here2Talk was heralded by the British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS), who say that the daily stressors students face has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many students struggle to access mental health supports on campuses and in their communities; this has only been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. The early implementation of this service is going to help so many people struggling right now, and in the future,” said Tanysha Klassen, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students. “Even though there are support services on some campuses and in the community, they’re not always easy to access and some students feel uncomfortable asking for help. Here2Talk’s chat, phone, and online services will make it much easier for students to reach out for help when they need it.”
The Toronto-based human resources company Morneau Shepell created and administers the Here2Talk service building off their experience of delivering employee and family assistance programs, and another technology-based mental wellness app: WellCan.
“As the largest and the most fulsome provider of mental-health and well-being services in Canada, including for post-secondary students, we are excited to work with the government of British Columbia on this important partnership. We applaud its leadership in supporting the mental health of every student in this province through this program and are honoured to have been chosen to help provide it, especially now with anxiety related to COVID-19 impacting large sections of the population, ”said Norah Joyce, Canada Chief Commercial Officer and Executive Vice-President for Morneau Shepell.
The Here2Talk app is available for download on both Android and Apple iOS platforms.