(Ministers Melanie Mark and Judy Darcy/Twitter)

The province of B.C. has just launched a free 24/7 mental health counselling portal for all post-secondary students.

The program, called ‘Here 2 Talk’, will be available during the COVID-19 pandemic and remain operational for at least the next three years, with investments of $1.5 million per year.

Post-secondary students registered in any program at any public or private institution in B.C., whether they are full-time or part-time, can access this free service via phone line, a downloadable app, or an online chat on the website at any time of day.

According to Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, Melanie Mark, this service was in the works for several months in response to a call to action from students.

It is being launched ahead of time due to additional mental health concerns raised as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know that post secondary school can be a very exciting time for students… But with the feelings of excitement and anticipation also come a whole new set of challenges,” said Judy Darcy, Minister Mental Health and Addictions.

“The stigma that still too often surrounds mental health can stand in the way of post secondary students reaching out for help.”

Darcy adds that this service can be accessed anonymously by students who might not feel comfortable reaching out for mental health supports available in person on campus due to persisting stigma surrounding mental health.

The on-demand counselling service will be manned by trained counsellors who can also refer students to specialists and local resources in their community if necessary.

Counselling is currently available in English and French and can also be made available in other languages upon request.

Students can speak to a counsellor by phone, toll-free at 1 877 857-3397 or direct 604 642-5212. Students calling from outside Canada can dial 1 604 642-5212 (international calling charges may apply).

On Wednesday, the federal government launched a free mental health support service for all Canadians offering free online resources, tools, apps and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals.

For immediate support, Canadians are even able to text into a dedicated help line to speak with a mental health professional:

  • Canadian youth can text WELLNESS to 686868
  • Canadian adults can text WELLNESS to 741741

The web portal is available online and through the government’s dedicated COVID-19 app.

See all the latest updates about the global COVID-19 pandemic on Vancouver Island

The BCCDC has set up a 2019 novel coronavirus telephone information line at 1-833-784-4397 for those who have further questions about this disease.

Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, should contact their primary care provider, local public health office, or call 8-1-1.

The Province has also created the 1-888-COVID-19  line to connect British Columbians needing non-medical information about the coronavirus pandemic.

As of the time of publication, the total number of COVID-19 patients worldwide has risen to 2,166,832.

Over 144,500 people have died from the illness and 546,269 have made a full recovery.