Last week, the UTM Health and Counselling Centre informed students about a new helpline, Good2Talk, through an update on their website. UTM hosts several offices that offer similar services (for example, handling stress or coping with eating disorders). One advantage of Good2Talk is its accessibility—it’s available for free 24/7.

Good2Talk’s lines have been active and accepting calls since mid-June of this year but were formally launched on October 4.

“This line is designed around the stresses, cultures, various demographics of postsecondary students. What we want out of this is [to be] willing and ready and best suited to help them and also be a resource for them,” said Justin Hanna, marketing and communications manager at Good2Talk, in an interview with the Medium. “We want students to know we’re here for them and we want students to know that we will do everything we can to make sure that our service remains relevant for them.”

Hanna said one of the goals of the helpline is to provide information about health centres on campus, and also to give students someone to vent to when needed.

The service, funded by the provincial government through the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities, is available only to Ontario postsecondary students.

The Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities and the Ministry of Health noticed a huge spike in students’ demand for services, according to Hanna, and created a mental health innovation fund in response. “Part of the money from this fund was used to create Good2Talk as an additional resource for students to be able to access professional counselling and information,” said Hanna.

Since Good2Talk is in its early days, Hanna and the team of specialists are still seeking feedback. For the next year and a half, the line will remain a telephone-only service, but after the first round of evaluation comes back to the team, changes will be made according to students’ requests.

Hanna is aware that students may be reluctant to speak about their problems with a stranger, especially over the phone.

“Our service is 100% confidential and anonymous. We don’t ask what someone’s name is or where they live or what school they go to,” said Hanna. “I think for many students who are facing their stresses, big or small, they want to know and like to know that this conversation [they’re] about to undertake is 100% anonymous. And that’s a calming thing for them.

“The other [great] thing about the phone counselling service is that it’s 24/7, 365,” he added. “Whether a student is calling at 2 p.m. or 2 a.m., they’re going to get somebody on the phone who’s going to be able and willing and ready.”

According to Hanna, the average wait time to speak to a professional on Good2Talk is 46 seconds, a number Good2Talk staff pride themselves on and will keep working to improve.

The helpline is already looking to add to their services as the volume of students using it increases. Since its formal launch, 800 calls have been made to their phones.

“We, from a counselling and staffing point of view, definitely plan and try to forecast as best as we can, and track when the highest call volume is and on which days, and what are the peak times, and we staff accordingly,” Hanna said. “What’s most important for us and what we put a tremendous of time and energy [into] is being sure that those wait times stay incredibly low.”

Good2Talk’s goal is to ally with colleges and universities to help as many people as they can, he added, and he hopes other provinces will follow Ontario’s lead. “There’s no doubt that when the emotional health of students is well taken care of, you’re investing in the future of your province and the economic prosperity of your province,” said Hanna.

The project is paid for by part of Ontario’s $257-million Mental Health and Addictions Strategy budget announced in 2011.

If you want to reach the helpline, call 1-866-925-5454.

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