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Coronavirus: Free counselling available 24/7 for B.C. post-secondary students

WATCH: B.C. officials make an announcement Thursday introducing mental health supports for post secondary students.

The B.C. government has launched Here2Talk, a free mental-health counselling and referral service for all post-secondary students enrolled in the province, in a bid to address students’ concerns related to COVID-19.

“Until now, post-secondary students have never had access to 24/7 province-wide mental-health support services,” Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark told a news conference in Vancouver.

READ MORE: B.C. trades students could see delays entering work force as coronavirus upends training

The service will be available to more than 550,000 students by app, phone or online chat, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, under a $1.5-million-a-year plan.

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It will work with other supports on campus and in the community, including new virtual mental-health supports announced last week by the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions that focus on adults, youth and front-line health care workers.

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Last month, in-person classes were suspended at most post-secondary schools in B.C. and moved online after health officials directed there to be no more public gatherings larger than 250 people.

READ MORE: UBC, SFU, UVic moving to online instruction amid coronavirus crisis

Student’s academic pursuits were thrown into uncertainty, with questions on when degrees will be completed, how they will afford rent, and whether they will have a part-time job in the summer to pay for schooling.

“Even though there are support services on some campuses and in the community, they’re not always easy to access and some students feel uncomfortable asking for help,” BC Federation of Students chairperson Tanysha Klassen said.

“Here2Talk’s chat, phone and online services will make it much easier for students to reach out for help when they need it.”