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A kids crisis support and counselling service is introducing a way to connect through text messaging.

Manitoba will be the testing ground for what will become a nationwide service offered through a partnership of Kids Help Phone and Crisis Text Line. The service will begin here in February, and the plan is to expand it to other provinces and territories later in the year.

The service will be free. Texts will be directed to Crisis Text Line's online platform in Canada. Kids Help Phone Crisis Responder volunteers will respond to the texts, with professional supervisors available should the need arise.

All conversations between texters and responders are confidential.

Kids Help Phone president Katherine Hay is encouraging those who wish to get involved to consider volunteering as a Crisis Responder. Crisis Responders must pass an online 36-hour training program, clear security screenings, and commit to volunteering at least four hours a week for a year.

A news release says Kids Help Phone has found, through its own service data, young people are more willing to open up about serious, high-risk mental health issues when using a non-verbal platform such as Live Chat. It says the texting service will allow Canadian youth greater access to confidential crisis resolution.

The same news release says Crisis Text Line had a soft launch of a similar texting service in two US cities in August 2013, and has since processed more than 58-million crisis messages coming from every US area code.