10/04/2013 08:26 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Hotline offers help to stressed post-secondary students

A new telephone hotline aims to help Ontario university and college students cope with the pressures of post-secondary life.

Good2Talk is a free, anonymous counselling service launched this fall by the province. An extension of Kids Help Phone, the new initiative is targeted at post-secondary students.

Ontario MP Brad Duguid says that these young people, many of whom are leaving home for the first time, are coping with feelings of both freedom and fear.

“They're under a lot of stress and pressure. You have a tough economy we’re dealing with — they hear that day in and day out,” Duguid said Friday at a press conference announcing the helpline.

“There are other pressures in life,” he said. “Life is faster now.”

One in five post-secondary students will have some sort of mental health problem during their time on campus, experts warn.

Good2Talk is part of the Ontario government’s plan to spend $27 million over the next three years on mental health programs at universities and colleges across the province.

Students can call the helpline free of charge at 1-866-925-5454 to reach professional counsellors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Referrals for mental health and addiction services are also available through the service.

Sharon Wood, CEO of Kids Help Phone, described one young student’s desperate call expressing feelings of suicide and says she hopes the hotline will give others a safe way to speak out.

“Whether you're calling at 2 p.m. or at 2 a.m. when other services are closed, we will be there for you,” Wood said.