Teen boys are far less likely than their female counterparts to ask for help when they’re struggling. To help get more boys talking, Kids Help Phone, Canada’s national helpline for young people, has partnered with the Movember Foundation, a global men’s health charity to a create a new online support service called BroTalk.ca.
Stigma and gender stereotypes are just some of the things that keep teen boys from calling the hotline. “There is a tremendous amount of pressure on teen guys to be autonomous and solve their own problems,” says Alain Johnson, clinical director of Kids Help Phone. “Reaching out may be perceived as a sign of weakness for some.”
The numbers are staggering: 80 per cent of counselling services are used by teenage girls. “Teen guys are less likely to reach out and discuss mental health and emotional issues, and yet they are four times more likely to die from suicide,” Johnson says.
The website offers a free, confidential and anonymous service that provides counselling and information on topics, such as dating, sex, depression and bullying. Geared to boys between 14 and 18, there are also interactive games that focus on teamwork and stress relief. It’s supposed to act as a gateway into Kids Help Phone’s professional counselling service, which is available over the phone or online. BroTalk users can request to speak to a male counsellor when calling the hotline or using the live chat.
The Movember Foundation, which raises money for men’s health awareness, donated $3 million to help develop the website. “We believe that men and boys will be engaged in their health if you build programs and services that understand their needs,” says Alain Brunet, clinical psychologist for the foundation. “This is the core element of our funding philosophy. This is an important program that we’re confident will help boys live happier, healthier and longer lives.“
Live online counselling is available from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. Wednesday to Sunday.
For more information, call 1-866-393-5933 or visit BroTalk.ca.