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Visions Journal

A reminder that this article from our magazine Visions was published more than 1 year ago. It is here for reference only. Some information in it may no longer be current. It also represents the point of the view of the author only. See the author box at the bottom of the article for more about the contributor.

Navigating the Navigators

British Columbia's phone-based support and information lines

Aazadeh Madani, MA

Reprinted from the "System Navigation" issue of Visions Journal, 2014, 10 (1), pp. 28-30

The Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre helps you find support

Sometimes it’s hard to know what type of support you’re looking for, and it helps to have someone to talk with to figure it out. That’s what the Kelty Centre is here for.

The Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre is a provincial information and resource centre for BC children, youth and their families who are experiencing mental health and/or substance use challenges. Kelty Centre staff provide peer support, assistance in navigating the mental health system and accessing resources, and information and education about mental health and substance use challenges. A key part of our role is providing telephone support and helping callers connect to relevant and useful resources in their area. We offer these services free of charge by phone, in person or through email.

Kelty has a unique peer support model: the centre is staffed by Parents in Residence (PiRs) and Youth in Residence (YiRs) from The FORCE Society for Kids’ Mental Health. PiRs and YiRs are peer support workers with lived experience of mental health and/or substance use challenges who provide information, resources, and system navigation based on their own lived experience. They can also help to connect you with FORCE PiRs in your own community. The Kelty Centre also has an eating disorders peer support worker. She provides information, resources, system navigation and peer support to individuals of all ages across BC who are struggling with eating disorders or body image issues.

How to reach us

  • Call toll-free from anywhere in BC: 1-800-665-1822; Lower Mainland: 604-875-2084 (hours are 9:30am to 5pm weekdays for phone (available at other times for in-person visits, by appointment)
  • Visit in person if you want more information or prefer face-to-face support: BC Children’s Hospital, Mental Health Building, 4555 Heather Street, Vancouver, BC, Room P3-302 (3rd Floor)
  • Email:
  • Website:

As much as we’d like to, we can’t do it all. We’re open weekdays during the day, but sometimes you need support on weekends, in the evening—or the middle of the night! Although we have a wide range of multilingual resources available on our website, the support we provide at Kelty is primarily in English. And other than for eating disorders, our focus is on resources for young people and their families. For all these reasons, we rely on many other specialized support and information lines across the province to assist our callers and the visitors to our centre. We’ve listed below, by area of concern, some of the phone lines we’ve found to be most helpful for navigating the health and mental health systems in BC.

Helpful phone services we refer to

Here is only a brief overview of some of the phone services, other than the Kelty Centre, that are available to BC residents. Most of these services are multilingual (just say the name of the language you need in English) and all are free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week (24/7).

Crisis and suicide intervention

It’s always important to remember that if you’re in immediate distress or are worried about someone, you can call the Crisis Centre’s distress phone service. They also have online chat services available in BC and Yukon for youth and adults. You can chat online with a Crisis Centre volunteer between noon and 1am, every day. If someone you know is in immediate danger, however, 9-1-1 is the best place to call.

Mental health support

If you’re not in immediate distress or crisis, but want support right away or just need someone to talk to, the best place to start is the 310 Mental Health Support Line service. Crisis lines across the province are partnered and coordinated to provide this service through the Crisis Line Association of BC. All staff have advanced training in mental health issues and a wide range of knowledge about mental health services offered province-wide, so they can offer emotional support and pinpoint which resources are the most relevant for you.

  • Call 24/7 from anywhere in BC: 310-6789 (do not enter an area code)
  • Multilingual translation services available
  • Website:
Drug and alcohol support

This line is specifically for the needs of BC residents who are experiencing substance use issues. The Alcohol and Drug Information & Referral Line provides education and prevention strategies and referrals to a full range of counselling and treatment services across BC.

  • Call 24/7 toll-free from anywhere in BC: 1-800-663-1441
  • Lower Mainland: 604-660-9382
  • Multilingual translation services available
  • Website:
Health and healthy living

Part of good mental health is having good overall health. Finding ways to be healthy or stay healthy can be hard. That’s why it’s useful to have a service like HealthLinkBC, which offers free support and information from nurses, with additional support from dietitians and pharmacists. You can check out your symptoms of illness in a non-emergency situation with a registered nurse at any time of day or night. You can also consult with a pharmacist for medication questions during non-business hours and access a dietician during business hours or via email. In addition, HealthlinkBC can help you get connected with healthy-living resources in your area—they have a Navigation Services team to direct you to what you need close to where you live.

  • Call 24/7 from anywhere in BC: 8-1-1
  • TTY (deaf and hearing-impaired) anywhere in BC: 7-1-1
  • Multilingual translation services available
  • Website:
More child and youth support

Kids Help Phone offers 24/7 bilingual (French and English) support from professional counsellors to Canadian kids, teens and young adults from ages five to 20. They provide free, anonymous, non-judgmental support by phone, live chat or web post. They help with issues ranging from problems at home and school through to issues around mental illness and thoughts of suicide. They also can help you find resources in your community that are targeted specifically toward youth and youth concerns.

General information

The need for support isn’t always limited to mental health or substance use challenges. It might not be linked to health at all. Luckily, there is 211, a free, multilingual line in BC for the Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Squamish-Lillooet and Sunshine Coast regional districts. The 211 line provides general support for people looking for help. Much like the other lines, its services are non-judgmental, confidential and available 24/7. And it provides information and referral to a wide array of resources in the community, for example, support for victims of violence, help for problem gambling, shelter and transition house information, financial assistance, senior’s services, meal and grocery services, and other government and social services.

About the author
Aazadeh is a Project Coordinator for the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre and Health Literacy Teams at BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services in Vancouver. She previously volunteered as a collective member with Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter and has also worked on their crisis line for over six years

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