New helpline focuses on post-secondary students in Ontario

TALK: Good2Talk is a professional phone counselling service for post-secondary students in Ontario.
TALK: Good2Talk is a professional phone counselling service for post-secondary students in Ontario.

Reporter: Sadia Badhon

Day-to-day stresses are part of post-secondary students lives. It’s not always easy to find the help needed to cope with those stresses, but knowing there is someone to talk to can make a difference.
Good2Talk officially launched on Oct. 4, 2013 as a helpline for post-secondary students in Ontario focusing on ages 17 to 25. Good2Talk provides free counselling and information specialists on the phone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
According to Justin Hanna, marketing and communications manager at Good2Talk, mental health and emotional well-being are a concern in colleges and universities and it is important to address those issues. Although some stresses have been around for a long time, like academic problems and relationship issues, there are also new stresses added to the list. “Whether that be strong youth unemployment, economic recession raising student debt levels, all of these new challenges are creating new stresses,” he said.
Because Good2Talk is available at any time, it is an immediate resource for students to talk about small and big issues. “Biggest key message to students is whether it’s 2 p.m. or whether it’s 2 a.m. on a Wednesday or Friday or Saturday, or whatever it might be, we’re here. Our lines are always open,” Hanna said. Students can call to talk about anything and everything with a professional counsellor over the phone, and it is anonymous.
“Our number one goal is to meet the needs of post-secondary students. We are here for them,” he said.
Heather Bickle, an outreach worker at the campus health centre, often sees students the first time they enter the counseling department on campus and helps them navigate through it and connects them to the services they need. According to Bickle, the more helplines students have access to the better.
“One thing that’s really good about Good2Talk is it’s not just a place students can call and get services but they also remind students about the services right on their campus so they’re aware of the services we have here at Durham College and UOIT so they can help students reach out to those services,” she said.
Bickle said it is good for students to have this service for when campus services are closed or when students are away from school during Christmas break or reading week.
Another good thing about Good2Talk, according to Bickle, is the option to get counselling over the phone if students are not comfortable with face-to-face conversations.
“For some students it can be the voice that gets them through the night…so definitely as a crisis piece, it’s a great tool to have,” she said.
What Rojan Javid, a second-year Health Science at UOIT, likes about Good2Talk is that it’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is anonymous but also feels they should extend the support to online medias as well because some people may not feel comfortable speaking over the phone. She said the service could be improved by offering more languages because the population is very multi-cultural.
“Personally it’s not something I would use because I live with my family, and I feel more close telling my problems to them because they know my personality and what I should do according to me, but I would recommend it to my friends because a lot of them live on campus and they might not have access to their family,” she said.
Gena Faye, another second-year student in the Health Science program at UOIT, said, “It is a useful service because the youth generally have trouble talking to someone about their problems, especially because we are multi-cultural. Some have strict parents and they can’t talk about their problems to them,” she said.
According to Faye, students may not reach out to the service because they could be ashamed to admit they have a problem and maybe not want to be labeled alcoholics or addicts. They don’t want to be judged so they just keep it to themselves.
One of the things Faye likes about Good2Talk is that it is specifically designed for post-secondary students.
Maggie Smith, a first-year student in the General Arts and Science program at Durham College, said Good2Talk is a good service to have overall. “It would be very useful just to talk it out is enough of a release, to find confidence to actually call in the first place it could help them a lot,” she said.
According to Stephen Thomas, a second-year student from the Forensic Science program at UOIT, Good2Talk has a useful purpose but a lot of people don’t know about it.
“Some of the benefits for this kind of a program would be that it has the potential to lower suicide rates in post-secondary students, because that is a huge topic when it comes to the health of a post secondary student,” he said.
Latonah Lyn-cook, a first-year student in the General Arts and Science program at Durham College, said sometimes students may not have the resources around them, such as family members, or if they find it hard to talk to family members, they will benefit from counselling over the phone through Good2Talk and get a new perspective on their issues.
“I wouldn’t use it because I feel like I do have a good source of people around me that do help me deal with my stress. I like it better to get insights from people that know me,” she added.
Manh Ly, a second-year UOIT student in the Mechanical Engineering program, said, “I think it [counselling over the phone] would be better than in person because you can just be at home, relax and call for help if you need to and not have to go to an appointment and talk face to face.”