TORONTO — Some teen boys may be reluctant to express their feelings, but a new national support service is hoping to make the process easier for youngsters wanting to open up and share their struggles.
Kids Help Phone has launched BroTalk, an online and phone service for teen boys aged 14-18.
Visitors to the newly launched website will be able to connect to a counsellor through a live chat function available Wednesdays through Sundays from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. ET, or by phone 24/7 by calling 1-866-393-5933.
Teens will also be able to access information on the site about pertinent topics including depression, fitting in, school, sex, relationships and dating, and can read real-life stories from their peers.
Kids Help Phone president and CEO Sharon Wood said there are common concerns raised by youth using the service, including peer pressure and anxiety around school and living up to family expectations. There are also feelings expressed about mental and emotional health, suicide and suicide-related issues, she noted.
"Boys also reach out around abuse that they've experienced personally or may be aware of in their families. A smaller number of boys are reaching out around issues of bullying and harassment."
BroTalk - known as Coin de gars in French - is designed to meet the unique needs of young males who seek out help significantly less often than their female peers, Wood said.
Focus groups were conducted with boys in BroTalk's target demographic to find out why they didn't seek assistance. Feelings of stigma, embarrassment and shame were cited among their concerns.
"Those are barriers we need to overcome by reaching out to them differently," Wood said, adding that counsellors have been trained to make a connection with teen boys by using different vocabulary.
"Instead of saying for example: 'How are you feeling today?' Say: 'What are you up to? What prompted you to reach out?'
"Using action language and starting from that place of: 'Tell me what you're doing right now.' The doing and action words start that process."