As college and university students across British Columbia prepare their work spaces for Zoom classes this fall, the provincial government is issuing a reminder that mental health supports are available to them for free.

“Students experience high levels of stress and anxiety compounded by the pandemic. Here2Talk is a 24/7, free service that is available to post-secondary students across the province no matter where they are — because access to mental health services shouldn’t depend on where you live or the size of your bank account,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, in a statement.

The program, called ‘Here 2 Talk’, will be available throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and remain operational for at least the next three years, through 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 prior to the pandemic in response to a call to action from students.

It was launched in April, ahead of time, due to additional mental health concerns raised as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The service can be accessed anonymously by students who may 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).

Back in April, the federal government also launched a free mental health support service for all Canadians offering 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.