Why Kids Help Phone is showing up for Indigenous youth

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Photo credit: Skylar Larnez Photography

For over 30 years, Kids Help Phone has been showing up for young people. And we know that a growing number of the youth we serve — and aim to serve — are Indigenous. We want to continue to be there for all young people across Canada. That’s why we’ve been working hard to ensure Indigenous youth have equal and equitable access to our services, whenever and wherever they need us most. We’re also committed to highlighting the incredible achievements of Indigenous youth — and we can’t do all of this alone!

Why is Kids Help Phone supporting Indigenous youth?

Unfortunately, not all people in Canada are treated equally or have equal access to support and resources. Inuit, Métis and First Nations people, whom we collectively refer to as Indigenous, often have very limited access to mental health services. At the same time, the ongoing effects of colonization are resulting in a greater need for essential supports like Kids Help Phone.

What is service equity?

Equal access means that everyone has the same level of awareness of our services — and the same ability to reach out. But what do we mean by equitable services?

“Equitable services are resources that are relevant and appropriate to meet the diverse needs of everyone,” explained Deanna Dunham, manager of Indigenous Initiatives at Kids Help Phone. “We now have a clear plan for ensuring all youth across Canada can access our services, including free, 24/7 counselling and text-based support, however they are able to reach out.”

What is Kids Help Phone doing to achieve service equity?

We released Finding Hope: Kids Help Phone’s Action Plan for Supporting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Young People in March 2019. This three-year plan outlines how we’re working in partnership with Indigenous youth, communities, organizations and allies to ensure Indigenous young people have equal and equitable access to our services from coast to coast to coast.

Finding Hope was developed and continues to be led by our Indigenous Advisory Council. This council is composed of First Nations, Inuit and Métis experts in the mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of Indigenous youth.

“Finding Hope is an action plan that I feel truly honours Indigenous peoples, our histories, our struggles and our futures,” said Indigenous Advisory Council co-chair Ashley Cummings. “I see it providing so much opportunity, both for assistance and for including Indigenous peoples in all levels within Kids Help Phone.”

Finding Hope is holistic. Its seven goals and 37 actions recognize that mental health is closely connected to many aspects of a young person’s life including:

  • economic opportunities
  • employment opportunities
  • access to health services and education
  • physical health (e.g. access to sports, safe housing and healthy foods, etc.)
  • connection to land and culture

Ensuring Indigenous people are well represented among our staff, volunteers and the businesses we work with is a key aspect of our Action Plan.

How is Kids Help Phone supporting Indigenous youth who reach out?

Kids Help Phone is a safe space for Indigenous youth to reach out for caring, confidential, non-judgmental support. Our counsellors and Crisis Responders receive ongoing, Indigenous-sourced training to help them understand the unique realities lived by many Indigenous youth.

“Our counsellors and Crisis Responders are learning how beneficial and evidence-based Indigenous healing practices are, and are beginning to include them in their referrals and conversations when requested by young people,” said Dunham.

Through our digital channels, we’ll profile Indigenous mentors and innovative programs while sharing opportunities for people in Canada to learn about Inuit, First Nations and Métis peoples.

We’re also standing side-by-side as an ally with Indigenous peoples as we strive as a country to remove long-standing inequalities and eliminate racism.

We invite all people across Canada to join us in celebrating the amazing skills and contributions of Indigenous youth to science, arts, education and economies around the world. To learn more and help support Indigenous young people, check out Finding Hope: Kids Help Phone’s Action Plan for Supporting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Young People.