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Kids in crisis now have a local number to call

Published on

Cathy Dobson

A new crisis line for children and youth in Sarnia-Lambton has launched amid dire warnings the pandemic is taking a toll on their mental health.

Everyone is impacted by the pandemic, but children and youth experience it differently, said Hani Dajani, executive director at the Family Counselling Centre.

“They have less ability to share how they feel and vent.”

The Family Counselling Centre, which has long operated a Distress Line for adults, is partnering with St. Clair Child & Youth to train volunteers on what local services are available.

“We talked for years about a local crisis line just for kids, but there were no resources,” Susanne McLean, director of clinical services at St. Clair Child & Youth, told a Golden K Kiwanis meeting on April 6, the day the new crisis line launched.

Before, local youth were urged to call the Kids Help Phone, a national service that’s seen call volumes double since the pandemic started.

Anxiety is the top issue followed by depression and family distress, McLean said. Kids are anxious about isolation, school, family financial stress and missing milestones like graduation and prom.

“The timing for a crisis line couldn’t be better. There’s a real need,” she said.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation is supporting the new crisis line for one year. Fifteen volunteers have been trained by St. Clair Child & Youth and Sarnia Lambton Children’s Aid Society to operate the line daily from 7 a.m. to midnight.

Depending on call volume, the service may be expanded to 24 hours a day, said Dajani.

“We’re trying to give kids the mechanism to tap into mental health services,” he said. “I genuinely believe this is the best way we can serve the children in our community right now. It will be a blessing if we can save even one life.”

Anyone 18 years and younger can access the new Child & Youth Crisis Line by calling 1-833-622-1320.

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