News / Toronto

BroTalk: Online chat zone gets boys to open up about their feelings

“We found out these young boys do not want to be forced to say the words ...Typing out those words actually breaks down a lot of barriers.”

Joe, a Kids Help Phone counsellor, is among those who will be dedicated to a team of people working with BroTalk.

Liz Beddall/Metro

Joe, a Kids Help Phone counsellor, is among those who will be dedicated to a team of people working with BroTalk.

A new online chat zone has a hefty goal — decrease suicide rates among teenage boys.

Kids Help Phone launched BroTalk on Thursday in an attempt to make it more comfortable for young boys to reach out and talk about their feelings.

“Boys are not coming to us as much as we would anticipate,” said Alisa Simon, vice president of counselling services for the Toronto-based program. “Yet they are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviours.”

BroTalk is designed to make teen boys feel at ease. It’s a live, interactive chat zone, manned by young male counselors and is meant to help kids find solutions to problems before they turn into health crises.

“We found out these young boys do not want to be forced to say the words,” said Simon. “Typing out those words actually breaks down a lot of barriers.”

Nearly 80 per cent of people who contact Kids Help Phone are females, a number similar to those reported by other help lines around the world, she said.

Social studies show suicide rates among young males in Canada are four times higher than rates among females, Simon said. Meanwhile, less than 20 per cent of suicide-related calls fielded by the help line are from teen boys.

Simon said many factors contribute to young boys not opening up about their emotional issues, including stigma, embarrassment and traditional images of masculinity.

Words such as help, counselling and mental health “don’t necessarily resonate with guys,” she said.

“It’s important that young boys understand that counsellors are on their side and just want to have a conversation,” she said.

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