Suicidal kids are willing to talk about their feelings online – using their iPad, smartphone and laptop keypads – more than past generations would ever dare discuss using old-fashioned telephones.
And there are plenty of kids who need the help provided by NEED2 which has an online crisis line, Youthspace. ca, which offers mental health support young people can relate to, said executive director Jane Arnott.
The numbers are staggering, according to provincial suicide statistics and other studies. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among the province’s young people between the ages of 12 and 18, according to the statistics.
A shocking one in 10 young people living in the Southern Vancouver Island region “have seriously considered suicide in the past year” and one in 20 have actually “made an attempt so serious they required medical treatment.”
NEED2 offers live chat, a discussion forum and e-counselling that is especially important to young people, whether they are looking for support for themselves, or for someone who they think needs help.
While the Youthspace.ca site is accessible to anyone, Arnott said it’s aimed at young people who want to remain anonymous but gladly reach out to NEED2’s professionally trained volunteers and staff who know how to listen and help youngsters explore other options to suicide, self injury, harming others, and talk about child abuse.
The NEED2 online service has the respect of kids, as shown on the online discussion forum.
“That’s why I’m here,” wrote one youngster. “It’s too hard to keep it to myself without friends or a family person to talk to.”
Wrote another young person: “I feel a lot better being able to get my feelings out to someone without any judgement being passed. Thank you.”
Funding from donations, including this year’s Black Press Pennies for Presents is critical in keeping the service going strong, Arnott said. She noted that the online discussion forum young people use allows them to “participate in a peer-to-peer support forum where they can post and reply to each other at any time of the day – on topics ranging from school and relationship to self-harm and suicide,” she said.
It’s a moderated forum to make sure nothing abusive or explicit is being exchanged and to watch out for predators disguising themselves as young people.
Staff review all comments before they are posted in order to ensure they are appropriate and don’t trigger dangerous emotions, she said. The space is kept safe for all who participate.
And it’s not just for kids.
Arnott said parents and teachers can visit the forum to read about some of the issues and challenges young people face today.
NEED2 offers e-counselling that invites young people to reach out via email to a youth counsellor at the Pacific Centre Family Services Association who respond to their concerns by email and offer ongoing support and information. Young people in the Westshore also have the option of meeting face-to-face with a youth counsellor.
The big thing about suicide prevention funding, said Arnott, is raising awareness about the possible loss of suicide prevention for youth and online support for youth.
Arnott encouraged parents and those involved in the school system to ask local schools what they are doing to address suicide education, and talk to NEED2 for expertise in developing programs.
And don’t be shy about becoming a fan on Facebook and Twitter, Arnott said. As well as encouraging friends to do the same and get involved. “Talk, talk, talk,” she said.
NEED2 also provides a range of workshops ranging from suicide risk assessment, communications skills, dealing with difficult situations, burn-out prevention and more that can be tailored to fit any organization and workplace.
For more information about suicide prevent or any other program, contact www.need2.ca. To donate to NEED2 and the “Pennies for Presents” campaign, drop off your change at Black Press head office, 818 Broughton St., or at any participating business.