It’s Good2Talk about mental illness

Durham College student dialling the Good2Talk helpline number.

College and university is an exciting chapter in one’s educational career. But whether you are in your first year, or approaching the final weeks of your last, it can be a stressful experience.

Good2Talk is a 24/7 helpline for post-secondary students in Ontario struggling with stress and mental health.

Started in Oct., 2013 by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, Good2Talk is in partnership with ConnexOntario, Kids Help Phone, Ontario 211, and Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health to provide students with a variety of resources and support.

Megan Van Massenhoven, an outreach coordinator for Good2Talk, spreads awareness of the 24/7 helpline to post-secondary students on campuses across Ontario and recently spoke to students at Durham College.

According to Van Massenhoven, Good2Talk provides post-secondary students with both counselling and information or resources on and off campus, where other helplines may only offer one or the other. Good2Talk will help you find community services that are low cost or free for students, or are covered under student or parent insurance.

“The goal is to provide that in-the-moment support, but also help students and young people, especially if you might have moved to a new city, you don’t actually know what’s available, or maybe you’ve only been on campus for a few months,” says Van Massenhoven. “We can actually tell you what’s there so you can make the best use of the resources on and off campus.”

The busiest times for calls, according to Van Massenhoven, are in the months of January March, September and October when school is either in full swing or nearing its end.

“Within the first sixth to eighth months we were getting 2,000 [calls]. We now average about 1,500 [calls]. Since we started in Oct. 2013, we’ve received 60, 000 calls, and that’s only Ontario,” says Van Massenhoven.

Counsellors most commonly speak to students who are experiencing stress or anxiety, or refer information and resources to help them manage their high levels of stress or anxiety, says Van Massenhoven.

“We don’t do any diagnosis on the phone. We’ll never tell you ‘oh, it seems like you have an anxiety disorder or clinical depression,’ because that needs to be diagnosed by somebody face-to-face who can give you ongoing care,” she says.

Another common reason for calling Good2Talk is relationship difficulties, Van Massenhoven says.

“I think that also includes friendship breakups, but relationships in general are a really common thing to have people call about,” Van Massenhoven says.

Good2Talk receives many repeat callers, which is estimated as 10 per cent of their overall calls, according to Van Massenhoven.

“We do have what we call repeat callers. We don’t keep case-management files, so nobody is identified as a repeat caller. Sometimes that’s once a day, sometimes it’s multiple times a day,” says Van Massenhoven. “Often we encourage people to tell us if they’ve called before. We can’t promise that it will be the same counsellor, but it helps us start that discussion of what you talked about last time and how are you feeling now.”

The counsellors and information referral specialists at Good2Talk are ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) trained and will take as long as needed to help students who are suicidal or in crisis.

“We’ll often call an ambulance on someone’s behalf, but we make sure we have their permission to do so,” says Van Massenhoven. “With every single caller, especially in those higher-risk situations, we work with them to make a safety plan. Even if they’re not open to going to a hospital, who is someone they can call after we hang up the phone?”

If you are going through a hard time, whether you’re struggling with school, relationships, or mental health, Good2Talk will provide you with the support you need at their toll-free number 1-866-925-5454.

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Jessica Stoiku is a second year journalism student at Durham College. With a passion for writing, she enjoys exposing the arts and culture stories of people within the community for The Chronicle. She hopes to work for a publication that focuses on human interest and issues on a broader scale.