I’ve long been a fan of the work done by Kids Help Phone (KHP) as have the 225,622 Canadian youth who contacted the organization in 2010.
Kids Help Phone’s is Canada’s only bilingual, 24-hour, toll-free, confidential and anonymous phone and online counselling, referral and information for children and youth.
Here’s a Q & A with Suzanne Shillington, an Ottawa-based parent who has also been a dedicated volunteer with KHP for the last 2.5 years.
Q: Why volunteer with this organization?
A: I had been wanting to volunteer but felt it had to be something that had meaning for me. I found my calling when the 15 year old nephew of friends’ of mine, committed suicide. In their despair, his parents came forward to talk about their son’s mental health and asked that if people were considering making donations in his name, that they consider donating to Kids Help Phone. I went online to research and when I saw what they were about, I contacted them right away to offer my help.
Q: What do you do as a volunteer?
A: I do many things to help, including:
- I am on the Walk For Kids Help Phone Walk Committee here in Ottawa.
- Find Corporate Sponsors for the walk. We were thrilled to secure the Ottawa Senators Foundation as a sponsor. I also look for support from local businesses who may be able to help by providing raffle prizes for the Walk.
- Raise awareness, speak to my many contacts, help to think of creative ways to fund raise, and attend workshops where kids participate to spread the word about Kids Help Phone.
Q: What’s made the biggest impact on you and why do kids call or reach out most to KHP?
A: I think what really hits me is, that, according to KHP’s research, “100% of young people will experience sadness, frustration, grief, stress…”. The top 3 reasons that kids contact KHP are: Mental Health (about 30% of calls and online posts relate to mental health, including eating disorders, self-harm and self-esteem); Peer concerns are the second most common reason followed by family concerns.
Q: Is there any particular story that stands out?
A: One story that really sticks with me: We had a speaker at this year’s Walk who said that KHP saved his life. He said that if KHP had not been there for him when he was younger he would have committed suicide. A counsellor talked him out of committing suicide and provided him with the help he needed. The young man was very inspirational and motivating.
Currently, Kids Help Phone uses these tools and initiatives to reach and respond to children:
1. Phone counselling (including three-way call)
2. Ask Us Online (a tool for kids and parents, and the place to access tip sheets)
3. Info Booth (age-appropriate information on more than 50 topics)
4. Virtual support community created by kids viewing kids’ posts and counsellor response
5. Interactive tools
6. Community referral database of more than 37,000 local agencies in 2,750+ communities across Canada
7. IM/Chat professional counselling pilot (coming in Fall 2011)
Thank you, Suzie, for your time and generosity.