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Kids Help Phone sees Surge in Demand as Anxieties Rise due to COVID-19

These are extraordinary times as new pressures and anxieties impact the mental health of Canadians, including for youth, for whom social distancing can cause feelings of isolation at a time when so much of their learning comes from social experiences. For kids and teens, the pressure is also creating new challenges in mental health and amplifying existing ones. For them, the need to reach out and get support has never been greater – and Kids Help Phone is responding.

We had the privilege to sit down with Katherine Hay, President and CEO of Kids Help Phone, and discuss the growing need for services provided by Kids Help Phone, and how their upcoming Never Dance Alone-a-thon powered by BMO event will raise awareness and strengthen the organization’s ability to serve kids in crisis.

How are the needs of youth evolving in this time of social distancing?

Since the beginning of COVID-19 in Canada, young people were concerned about school and their relationships with both friends and family. Now, we’re hearing more young people discuss their feelings towards isolation, their experience with grief as many are missing out on milestone events like prom or graduation and we’re hearing more about abuse. As we continue to participate in social distancing, I think what’s most important is thanking our young people for doing their part. It’s not easy to shift your routine and I know that even as adults, we are all entering this without the knowledge or experience of what’s to happen next. We’re all in this together and it’s so important for young people to know that they can connect with Kids Help Phone, any time and wherever they are!

Some important facts:

  • Volume has remained higher than normal following the spike mid-March.
  • Phone demand up 56% since March 12.
  • Text demand up 63% since May 12.
  • 32% conversations last week were about COVID-19.
  • 81% felt that isolation and/or loneliness contributed to their distress.
  • 53% had concerns related to school and/or work closures.
  • 33% were concerned about someone they love contracting the virus.

What is the significance to you of the Never Dance Alone-a-thon, and what are your goals for it?

“Never alone” could not be a bigger message to young people right now as we’re in this state of social distancing. But, there is a massive silver lining, because Kids Help Phone is there 24/7, no matter how small or big a problem is. And there are beautiful things happening in the world around us as we figure out new ways to connect. And I would say big silver linings are things like how you pivot to create joy and energy with an event like Never Dance Alone-a-thon.

So, if anyone asked me if the prime reason for events like the Never Dance Alone-a-thon or Walk So Kids Can Talk, is to raise money, I would categorically disagree. The reason for Never Dance Alone-a-thon is to spread joy and energy and light and a little bit of fun and frolic. Dance represents all of that. If we achieve joy and raise the energy and good spirits and raise the money we need so we can still be there 24/7 in every province and territory, that is a really good reason for us to be out there potentially embarrassing ourselves. I’ll speak for myself on that.

Key Achievements of Kids Help Phone:

  • Due to fundraising efforts and partnership with BMO, Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone launched a pilot in February 2018, and by November was available nationally in English and French.
  • In 2019 Kids Help Phone reached 1.9 million young people.
  • Created the first support service in Canada to answer texts by severity versus chronology, ensuring youth-at-risk receive priority assistance.

What about it makes you most excited?

What I think I’m most excited about is that resiliency will just come into play because kids and Canadians are naturally resilient. The message of “never dance alone” is going to anchor against a spirit of joy, a little bit of uninhibited abandonment, and the sharing of yourself. Dancing might put us in an uncomfortable, vulnerable spot, but we’re all going to do stuff like that because it’s going to bring us joy. It’s going to bring other people joy. I hope people laugh out loud. I hope we all dance with an uninhibited freedom and then I do hope we raise some funds because, after all of that, we’ve got to make sure that when that next youth calls at two in the morning, they’ve got someone to talk to on the other side of that call or text.

Every dance helps. Yours can too. Click here to register for the Never Dance Alone-a-thon and join us on Sunday, May 31st as we dance in support of Kids Help Phone and youth mental health.


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