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Kids Help Phone Line takes on volunteers to provide support for parents amid pandemic

Mother and children take a photograph with protective masks during the coronavirus pandemic (ARTindividual / Getty Images)

Mother and children take a photograph with protective masks during the coronavirus pandemic (ARTindividual / Getty Images)

Kids Helps Phone, Canada’s 24/7 national support service which provides counselling to young people in distress, put out a call for more volunteers to meet the demands of parents and people calling in for support as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in May.

Since the organization put out the call, more than 8,000 people have applied to date to be trained volunteer crisis responders under the crisis text line service put forward for both children and adults.

The service is a collaboration made by Crisis Text Line and powered by Kids Help Phone in which any individual regardless of age can text WELLNESS to the number 741741 and be instantly connected with a trained volunteer crisis responder.

Senior Vice President of Innovation for Kids Help Phone Alisa Simon, told CBC reporters earlier in March that the free nationwide texting service experienced a 350 percent increase in people reaching out due to anxiety and fears related to the pandemic.

Pirntha Sivapan, a crisis responder who began volunteering with the organization in May said that many of the people she has been paired up with have been adults and mothers in need of someone to talk to.

“There’s no single telephone service for parents who need mental health support in Canada, many end up turning to us for support” said the University of Toronto student.

Candice Sheehan, mother of a twelve and eight year-old says she has experienced a lot of anxiety and stress and is constantly worrying about her kids safety and their progress in online schooling.

“I am just trying to keep my kids healthy and safe and feeling productive all while I also try to cope with my own anxiety and fears as a result of the pandemic” said the mother from Burlington, Ontario.

Many of her friends feel the same way and believe they have little time and resources available to help them with their own mental health struggles. Sheehan says her group of friends connect once a week and share similar stories of feeling like they have to stay strong and keep quiet about their own anxiety as they work to stay positive and take care of their kids.

Jack Veitch, Manager of Community Engagement and Education for the Canadian Mental Health Association- Pine Ridge Branch, believes the isolation and pressure many parents face during these times can be a reason for some experiencing a decline in their mental health.

“The impacts of isolation, lack of connection, and lack of productivity as a result of adjusting to a new life during the pandemic is proving to cause high levels of anxiety and depression amongst many Ontarians” said Veitch.

Veitch says that the crisis line provided by the C.M.H.A. has similarly experienced a steady increase in the number of calls during the pandemic, many coming from parents and adults who feel overwhelmed.

According to a study conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights on behalf of the Canadian Mental Health Association (C.M.H.A), 41 percent of the general population of Ontarians wish they had someone to talk about the things that are worrying them now, and 44 percent do not feel confident in their ability to find the mental health support they need during this time.

With no single national line dedicated to adults under distress in Canada, the influx of calls from parents and adults seeking support from organizations like that of Kids Help Phone’s whose primary target group is young Canadians, has proved to some as a sign that there is not enough resources and support made available for adults struggling with their mental health.

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