How it Works
A simple chat can make all the difference. We are real people, ready to listen to you and with the experience and knowledge to help. We know what services and programs exist and, based on your situation, we can directly connect you to the help you need. No concern is too big or too small. We are here to help you find a path forward.Explore the FAQ for more details
To get started, just give us a call. Our service is completely free and confidential. Our friendly, experienced staff are available Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. EST and Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST.
Tell us what’s going on:
We’ll listen and ask you some questions to help understand what your child (aged 0-18) and family are going through. Based on your situation, we can determine the options available to help meet your needs.
If this is an urgent crisis or emergency, please go to your local hospital or call 911. If at any point on the call our team thinks that you require more immediate crisis support, we will help direct you.
We help guide you through the options
We have up-to-date knowledge of the resources, services and programs that may help your child and family. Together, we’ll review available local options based on your needs. We can offer immediate, free counselling for your child through the What’s Up Walk In and/or start the process to connect them to longer-term support.
Intake for immediate, free counselling
Booking an appointment takes about 10 minutes and requires the consent of the child and their legal guardian(s). We’ll ask some additional questions and, while you are on the call, we’ll do our best to secure an appointment for the same day or the following day.
Initial intake for longer-term services
The intake process to connect your child and family to the right supports offered by our community based organizations takes about 25 minutes. Accessing the services will also require the consent of the child and their legal guardian(s). If you don’t have time right away, you can call us back or we can schedule a follow-up call.
Your appointment details
You’ll be given the time and name of the organization or counsellor who will be calling you and your child. At your scheduled time, they’ll call — likely from a private number. Remember to have your phone or device charged! They’ll try a few times if you miss their first call.
Connecting with an organization
Once your child’s general intake information is complete, we’ll share it with the selected organization. They will call you back within 5 business days to confirm that they have your details.
Talk to a counsellor
Your child’s session will last about 45-60 minutes. The counsellor will already have some of the details you shared with us. If you or your child have any issues getting connected to the counsellor, call us back and we will help solve the issue.
Complete service intake
Within 10 business days, the organization will contact you to complete any additional intake requirements they need to sign your child and family up with the service or program they need to access.
It’s okay to call us (again).
If you ever need our help again, we’re here for you. Call us!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you provide services in different languages?
Help Ahead staff speak English and there is an option when you call to press 2 in the greeting message to speak with someone in French from Centre Francophone. At this time, we do not have the ability to provide services in languages. Please ask a family member, friend or other person you trust who can speak English to help you with the process.
Other language requests can be accommodated in What’s Up Walk-In counselling sessions if there is a language specific counsellor available. This usually means making a counselling session may not be immediately available and booking an appointment may likely be necessary. Some of the clinics can arrange for interpretation services.
For ongoing services, some of the clinics can arrange for interpretation services. During the initial intake process, our Help Ahead staff would identify language needs and consult with agencies before sending the referral to see if the language required can be accommodated.
Is your service free?
Yes! Calling Help Ahead and speaking with a member of our team is always completely free. We are funded by the Government of Ontario.
What’s Up Walk-In counselling sessions, accessed by calling us, are also available, free of charge.
For ongoing services, we will explore the options through our partnered community mental health agencies available to you at no cost. Should you be interested in fee-for-service programs or treatments, we can share relevant options for those as well.
What if I need counselling right now?
We do not provide counselling over the phone, but are able to connect you to a therapist at the What’s Up Walk-In clinic for a telephone or video session likely on the same day that you call.
We also offer information about where to receive services in your community and will arrange for a referral to that service if you would like ongoing counselling and support.
What can I expect when I call?
An experienced mental health worker will ask you a short series of questions. These questions are designed to help the worker decide what type of service and agencies that will best help you. If you agree, the worker will contact the most appropriate agency and they will follow-up with you directly.
Who will I speak to when I call?
When you call you will be connected to a qualified and experienced mental health worker. We are here to listen, provide support, and help you with information, not to judge.
Do you have call display?
We do have call display however we will not record your phone number without your permission.
Call display is enabled in case we believe someone is at risk of immediate self-harm.
Do I have to give my name?
No, you don’t. However, if you want us to make a referral for service, you will need to provide your name and other identifying information.
What kind of information do you provide?
We provide information about:
- Mental health services in your neighbourhood or in other parts of the city
- Crisis lines
- Self-help groups
- Distress centres
- Family services
- Information and referral to other services
Who can call Help Ahead?
Anyone under the age of 18 looking for mental health services or anyone who wants to support someone under the age of 18 can call 1-866-585-6486. This includes young people, a custodial parent or guardian who wants to be connected to a community-based mental health service serving infants, children, youth and families.
Healthcare and education professionals and service providers can also call us to learn about services in the community. However, we cannot proceed with a referral without speaking to or getting consent from a custodial parent, guardian or youth 12yrs and over.
What ages do you serve?
We can connect individuals aged 0-29yrs, living in the Greater Toronto Area to What’s Up Walk-In sessions.
Access to ongoing mental health and counselling services, is provided to children and youth 0-18yrs and their families living in Toronto.
Who will the What’s Up Walk-In counselling session be with?
What’s Up Walk-In sessions are generally provided by a registered psychotherapist or registered social worker.
What’s Up Walk-In sessions are not with a psychologist or psychiatrist. Psychologist and psychiatrist require a doctor referral and are generally sought after to provide assessment and possibly medication management.
What’s the difference between What’s Up Walk-In counselling and ongoing support?
What’s Up Walk-In is meant to be a single session and provide support in the moment. It can be accessed as needed, but it is NOT a connection to a regular, consistent counsellor. Repeat callers are not guaranteed that they would speak to the same counsellor if they were to call again.
When referred for ongoing support individuals and/or families are assigned to one counsellor who will do the work with them on an ongoing basis until the service has ended.
Do you offer family and relationship counselling with What’s Up Walk-In?
What’s Up Walk-In is not ideal to support family and relationship counselling due to virtual limitations – it is intended for individual support.
What’s Up Walk-In can support individuals 0-29 years of age for direct support relating to themselves, or can support a parent of anyone 0-29 years if the reason for the call relates to their child.
Family support can be accessed through referral for ongoing support to one of our partner agencies.
Is this service only available to people living in Toronto?
Help Ahead can refer children, youth and families to our partner agencies in Toronto for ongoing support, but we can provide resources in the GTA for people to contact on their own if they are calling from outside Toronto.
For What’s Up Walk-In we can support the GTA with a limited capacity as some clinics will only accept callers residing within Toronto.
After I call you, how long do I need to wait before I can get help?
The mental health worker will send your referral information to the appropriate agency the same day you call us. You can expect to hear from the referring agency within five (5) business days to arrange a time to complete a more thorough assessment.
If you are calling about a counselling session through the What’s Up Walk-In Clinic you can expect to connect with a counsellor the same day.
Does my partner need to give permission for my kid to get help?
We must have consent from both legal guardians for children under 12yrs of age.
My child doesn’t want help. Can I still access services?
We must get consent from anyone participating in treatment that is over 12yrs of age.
If a child or youth over the age of 12 in your you care for does not want to access counselling or treatment, we can help connect you to local parent/caregiver groups and programs.
What can I expect if I am calling for a counselling session from the What’s Up Walk-In Clinic?
An experienced mental health worker will ask you a short series of questions. These questions are designed to help the worker connect you to the right What’s Up Walk-In session.
If you agree to a session, the worker will contact the most appropriate partnered community mental health agency and a counsellor will follow-up with you directly.