North Island College is welcoming a new, free mental health counselling and referral service for post-secondary students.

Here2Talk was announced by the province this week.

It provides free, confidential, single-session services by app, phone or online chat, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We’re so thrilled to see this new, free service rolling out for our students and students across BC,” says Felicity Blaiklock, NIC director of student affairs. “It’s a great addition to the counselling and support services NIC already offers and ensures our students have support whenever they need it, no matter what time of day.”

Here2Talk has been in development for a few months.

Those behind the tool worked to get it out as soon as possible to support students dealing with the increased stress from COVID-19.

“We know this is a challenging time for students. Being able to reach out for help if you need it, especially in the middle of the night or on the weekend, will make a big difference.”

Promoting good mental health and wellbeing is a priority at NIC and has been the focus of several new initiatives the college rolled out this academic year.

Blaiklock hopes that with more resources available, more people will reach out for help earlier, instead of trying to tough it out.

“It’s so easy to convince ourselves that it’s not that bad, or you just need to get through today,” she says. “You don’t have to wait until you’re in crisis to reach out. We’re here to support you.”

Chat sessions with a trained counsellor can be accessed by downloading the Here2Talk app or by visiting this website.

Students can speak to a counsellor by phone, toll-free at 1 (877) 857-3397 or direct (604) 642-5212.