Troubled young Canadians are able to get mental health support online day or night from the Kids Help Phone website. A new chatbot helps them navigate the site to find the kind of help best suited to their needs. (iStock)

Chatbot helps youth access mental health support online

A new chatbot tool has been added to help youth find mental health resources suited to them on the Kids Help Phone website. Kids Help Phone is an online mental health service that is free and available 24/7 in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French. 

Pandemic spurs huge increase in visits

Use of the service has increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, Kids Help Phone provided mental health support through over 4.5 million connections through phone, text, live chat and self-directed resources through its portal. That compares to 1.9 million connections in 2019. 

The chatbot or Navigation Technology Program is called Kip and it is designed to help and encourage young people looking for help, especially those who may not be ready to speak to a professional counsellor or crisis responder. It should help them navigate the website and help them find the resource that best fits their needs. 

Many kinds of help offered

Kids Help Phone’s gateway portal has extensive resources, self-directed tools, articles and relevant content – all created by the clinical teams at Kids Help Phone. Kip will help everyone – from kids to parents to teachers to caregivers to anyone seeking mental health resources – navigate through what can be a daunting and intimidating process to seek help” said Katherine Hay, President and CEO, Kids Help Phone. 

Work with focus groups determined that the Kip logo was easily found, recognized and used. (Kids Help Phone)

Kip, ‘your website helper’

Kip’s logo is found at the bottom right of the Kids Help Phone main page and is designed to be easily recognizable as a chatbot. Focus groups have found it to be easily recognized and used. Upon opening, the bot explains that it is not live but that the user can speak with a live person at any time: “Hi, I’m Kip, your website helper! I’m here to help you find what you need. I’m not a real person, so if you’d like to speak to someone, you can select the Talk to Someone link at any time. I’m new, so feel free to tell me about your experience with me by using the Feedback icon in the banner at any time!”

The feedback will help Kids Help Phone assess how useful the tool is.

Kip was created with the support of the Patrick and Barbara Keenan Foundation as part of its commitment to help improve mental health care for youth. Further support was provided by Canada Health Infoway, an independent non-for-profit funded by the Canadian government and the Werklund Foundation, another family philanthropic organization dedicated to helping the upcoming generation.

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