A year after launch, Here2Talk has provided counselling services to more than 3,000 students

With the transition to remote learning one year ago, second-year commerce student Sally said that she began to look for counselling services when the pandemic and new learning environment exacerbated stress within her life.

Sally said that she struggled “to find mental health support for university students.”

“With traditional counselling services, they’re obviously open to the public … they would be helpful, but they wouldn’t necessarily understand [that] this exam is really important to my life, or [that] this program is really important.” Sally’s last name has been withheld to protect her privacy and prevent stigma surrounding her mental health.

While looking for counselling tailored to post-secondary students, Sally came across Here2Talk, a provincial health service that launched in April 2020, created in part due to advocacy by the AMS. Here2Talk connects post-secondary students with free, confidential mental health resources through single-session telephone calls or chat-based counselling.

A year after launch, the resource has been used over 10,000 times by just over 3,000 university students across the province. Sally said her experience with the service has been positive.

“I think [Here2Talk Counsellors] are more understanding in that sense because their priority focus is university students.”

Sally said that in-person counselling services were often inaccessible to her because regularly scheduled appointments might not always be beneficial when mental health stressors can be unpredictable.

“I am just a very irregular person, I have panic attacks on an irregular basis. So most of the time I don’t really need mental health support, and then the few times I do go for it, I go in for that,” Sally said.

“I really liked just being able to call [Here2Talk] and being able to text whenever I wanted and have someone there to support me.”

Rather than having to book an appointment, Here2Talk provides 24/7 mental health counselling through phone calls or instant messaging via their app or on their website with little wait time.

Since Here2Talk is tailored to the needs of university students, Sally felt that she got more out of the appointments than she had when she used other counselling services.

“There’s kind of a pattern with general mental health resources where they listen to you and say, I understand, but they don’t really offer any ways to help concretely. Here2Talk was different because they actually offered steps that you could follow through.”

Due to patient confidentiality agreements, statistics about Here2Talk are limited to geographic regions. To gain insight into how useful the service has been for UBC students, incoming AMS execs are working to include survey questions about Here2Talk in the next Academic Experience Survey.

This will ensure that “the program is being efficiently and effectively used to support post-secondary students,” new AMS VP External Saad Shoaib wrote in a statement to The Ubyssey.

“We will continue to work with the provincial government and all relevant stakeholders to ensure programs like the Here2Talk mental health resource are being expanded, properly marketed to post-secondary students, and that data is being collected on the usage of such programs,” he wrote.

Alongside Here2Talk, UBC students can also access mental health resources through the Student Assistance Program, Crisis Centre BC, UBC Counselling Services and AMS Peer Support.