Kids can text for help — Port Coquitlam mayor

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore and the city
Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore and the city's youth services coordinator Chris Eastman speak to trustees on Tuesday about a texting platform for youth, who have bullying or other concerns.

Help for School District 43 students facing bullying, depression, anxiety and addiction could soon be as close as their smart phones.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore said this week that a long-awaited “I Am Someone” texting platform that has been in development since the district was rocked by several teen suicides in 2012, including the death of PoCo’s Amanda Todd, will be running by September. It will be linked to a resource and referral service called bc211 run by the United Way, which students can connect to by dialling 211.

Moore revealed the details of the texting platform at the School District 43 board of education meeting Tuesday, telling trustees it’s the start of what could one day be a national program to link troubled children with resources.

“Our goal is to go across Metro Vancouver and B.C., and ultimately across Canada,” Moore said, nothing that the program is in the marketing phase right now, with the launch planned to coincide with the re-opening of schools in the fall.

He said the service will be available via text from Wednesday to Sunday from 3 to 11 p.m., times during which students are expected to be most active based on data from similar programs in the U.S. Moore told trustees that there will be flexibility and the times could change depending on student need.

While the goal is to enable students to connect with resources quickly via text, Moore said the idea is to put them in touch with people who can talk to them over the phone and provide them with support and advice.

United Way’s bc211 program will also provide data about services gaps for youth in the Tri-Cities, enabling agencies and social service providers to better target programs to youth.

Chris Eastman, a youth services co-ordinator for the city of PoCo, said he expects the texting platform will be a useful tool as young people spend a great deal of time on their cell phones. According to Eastman, the best place to connect with kids is on the phone, quoting statistics that show texting is high among 13- to 15-year-olds, with girls sending out 250 texts a day and boys close behind with 175.

“They don’t call people anymore,” Eastman said.

He also noted that I Am Someone continues to raise awareness about bullying issues and is now connected with Pink Shirt Day. It will hold its third annual walk on Feb. 25, 2015.


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