HALIFAX -- The COVID-19 pandemic has left many people feeling isolated and uncertain, including the youth in Maritime communities.

The Kids Help Phone is a counselling service for young people in Canada.

Shelley Richardson, the director of development for Kids Help Phone in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, says the service has seen close to a 350 per cent increase in demand for their services.

“Our professional counselling service is working very hard to meet the needs of all those young people who are reaching out,” says Richardson.

“Last week we put out a call for additional volunteer crisis responders and had an overwhelming response. We had more than 2,600 people apply to be a Kids Help Phone crisis responder.”

Kids Help Phone is still in need of volunteers, particularly those who are bilingual.

As an organization based in virtual mental health care for more than 30 years, Richardson says the Kids Help Phone is built to handle this kind of crisis.

“All of our counselling staff have gone remote, they are working from home base situations.”

Richardson says the youth that are calling or texting the Kids Help Phone are feeling lonely, isolated, and scared.

“We are having an increase in the number of conversations around suicide, suicidal thoughts, fear of potentially living with abusers,” says Richardson.

“They are missing their friends, they are missing the interactions of school. It really does span a variety of conversations.”

The Kids Help Phone holds an annual fundraising event called Walk So Kids Can Talk, which is held on the first Sunday in May. This year, the organization is working to make it a virtual event.

“We still need and are asking people to go online and fundraise and donate to the Walk So Kids Can Talk, because, at this time, more than ever, we know that there will be shortfalls with events that are having to be cancelled,” says Richardson.

“We’re still relying on our many, many supporters across Canada to reach out.”

Richardson says kidshelpphone.ca is a great resource for parents and children to get information related to management of stress and anxiety.

“Particularly in this time, when other resources are having to be shut down, schools are shut down, just the access to the mental health support is diminished tremendously, but Kids Help Phone is still there. I’m very proud of the work we’re doing, and particularly at this time.”

Kids Help Phone offers counselling and information to young people in both French and English. If you’d like to get in touch with a counsellor, call 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868.