Kids Help Phone is aiming to better support teenage males – who are statistically less likely than girls to discuss mental and emotional health issues – with the launch of a new website and service Thursday morning.
The BroTalk website (known as Coin des gars in French) targets boys aged 14 to 18 and includes direct access to a counselor online and over the phone. There is information on relevant topics like relationships, dating, depression, sex, fitting in and school. It also features real stories from other teenage guys facing similar issues.
One in five youth who contact the national helpline are guys, Kids Help Phone president Sharon Wood said. Guys up to the age of 12 reach out quite well, she said. It drops when it comes to 13- to 16-year-olds but then rises again with the 17-year-olds.
The non-profit and national helpline says boys who do reach out to them are 31 per cent less likely to discuss mental and emotional health issues than girls and are 36 per cent less likely to talk about suicide and suicide-related issues.
Ms. Wood cited stigma, embarrassment and gender stereotypes like self-reliance as barriers which prevented young men from talking about such issues.
Young men did not reach out to the helpline and when they did, they were in a greater state of despair or crisis, Ms. Wood said in front of 50 male high school students.
"(Kids Help Phone) learned that guys are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviours including violence, drug and alcohol abuse. Some of it about coping," she said.
"BroTalk was created to empower teen guys to arrive at solutions to the problems they face before they're in crisis," she said.
Statistics Canada figures show Canadian men were four times more likely than women to die from suicide in 2009 and for every completed suicide, there were as many as 20 attempts. Women were three to four times more likely than men to attempt it, according to Statscan.
More than 150 males aged 10 to 19 died from suicide in 2011, Statscan reported, compared with 75 females in the same age range.
Kids Help Phone worked on the mental health project with The Movember Foundation, Ms. Wood said. The foundation gave a $3-million grant over three years beginning in 2013, she said. The money went towards the research, the content on the website and the cost of phone and online counselling.
The program's funding will end next year when Kids Help Phone will need to raise funds to support it, she said.
Ms. Wood hopes to see more teenage men use the website, either for information or counselling, and make it "cool, brave and smart" to reach out for help when they need it, reducing the stigma and embarrassment that they may face.