Young people deserve the opportunity to be heard and express their feelings in a safe space. But for newcomers to Canada, unique challenges like language barriers can make it difficult to access mental health support.
As approximately half of the newcomers fleeing from conflicts in Afghanistan and Ukraine are young people, Kids Help Phone identified an urgent need to provide a safe space to speak about their experiences. The Canadian youth mental health charity scaled to provide professional phone counseling service, via a LanguageLine interpreter, in Dari, Pashto, Russian, and Ukrainian. They are the first mental health organization to do so in Canada.
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 counselor and an interpreter.
These four languages are in addition to services provided in Arabic and Mandarin which launched in 2021.
The language expansion has been funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The IRCC has extended funding to scale to 100 languages by 2025.
Easing Access to Mental Health Services
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. There can be stigma for seeking support, and many young people, including newcomers, may not have the language proficiency to understand or describe how they are feeling.
By launching in-language counseling services for Afghan and Ukrainian newcomers, Kids Help Phone hopes to better serve these brave young people escaping conflict.
"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."
Helping the Most Vulnerable
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said the addition of LanguageLine interpreters in these four languages is an extension of Canada’s “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,” Fraser said. “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."