Kids Help Phone invites Aboriginal youth to help improve counselling service

Toronto, June 16, 2011 – Partnering with the Native Canadian Centre, Kids Help Phone invited a group of Aboriginal youth to create a new outreach campaign designed specifically to speak to Aboriginal communities of Canada. The posters can be seen at where Aboriginal youth from across Canada will help decide on the two new posters that will be printed and available to Aboriginal communities throughout Ontario and Canada. Voting starts on Tuesday, June 21 to mark National Aboriginal Day.This poster initiative is one step Kids Help Phone is taking to address feedback heard when a team of counsellors visited five Ontario Aboriginal communities. They traveled to Moose Factory, Serpent River, Toronto, Thunder Bay, and Kettle and Stony Point hoping to learn how to better engage the youth living there and to gain a deeper understanding of the realities they are facing. They often heard from young people in those communities that Kids Help Phone’s youth outreach materials did not speak to the experiences of Aboriginal youth.

With the assistance of a grant from the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion and Sport, knowledge gained during these visits will also help expand Kids Help Phone’s counselling approach with Aboriginal youth.

“Aboriginal youth are youth – their context is different, but youth share similarities across all cultures,” says Todd Solomon, Clinical Director, English Language Services at Kids Help Phone. “There are similar experiences and feelings that many kids go through, no matter what part of Canada they’re living in, but how Kids Help Phone’s counsellors respond to those calls depends on the context of the kid who’s calling.”

What Kids Help Phone wanted to learn was how to better serve this fast-growing young population: almost half, or 46 per cent, of the Aboriginal population in Canada is under the age of 24, compared to 31 per cent of the country’s non-Aboriginal population. And while all young people experience feelings of frustration, sadness, worry, and uncertainty as they grow up, for many Aboriginal youth, these feelings are compounded by isolation, displacement, or unequal access to education. “We wanted to give a voice to the kids to help shape a better service for them,” Solomon says. “The experts on issues are the kids, which is why we went directly to them.”

What Solomon and his team often found on these visits was that the need for a confidential youth counselling service is paramount.

“I came to Toronto 11 years ago,” says Springwater Hester-Meawassige, Youth Services Manager at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto and Healthy Communities Project Assistant at Kids Help Phone. “Going back home to Moose Factory was an eye opener. The reserves are small and everybody knows your business. Even though the communities are isolated, they aren’t anonymous. It’s not uncommon that the local youth counsellor is a friend’s family member, or your own family member. Being reminded of that underscored the value of Kids Help Phone as an anonymous resource.”

Solomon echoes that. “Many youth informed us that in the remote communities, we may be the only service that’s realistically available for them. Understanding that context means we have no choice but to adapt the way we support them.”

About Kids Help Phone:

Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only phone and on-line counselling service for youth. It’s free, anonymous and confidential. Professional counsellors are available any time of the day or night, 365 days a year, to help young people deal with concerns large or small. As a national community-based charity, Kids Help Phone relies on individual and corporate donations to fund these vital services.

For further information:

To set up an interview with Todd Solomon or Springwater Hester-Meawassige, please contact:

Liz Worth
Communications Coordinator,
Kids Help Phone

NationTalk Partners & Sponsors Learn More