How it Works
A simple call can make all the difference for an infant, child, youth or family looking for help. Our team is ready to listen and we have the expertise to help guide people in the right direction. We know what services and programs exist and, based on each situation, we can directly connect people to the services and programs they need. No concern is too big or too small. We are here to facilitate a path forward.Explore the FAQ for more details
Calling our phone line
It starts with 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.
Assessing needs and risks
We’ll listen and ask the child, youth or parent/caregiver some questions to help us better understand their specific needs. Based on their situation, we can determine the options available to help them.
We are not an emergency helpline, but if we receive a call from someone in urgent crisis, we will help redirect them to the appropriate crisis line or emergency service.
Guiding callers through suitable options
We have up-to-date knowledge of the resources, services and programs to help infant, children, youth and families in Toronto. Together, we’ll review available local options based on the child, youth or caregiver’s needs.
Initial intake for services
The intake process to connect children, youth and their families to supports offered by local community based organizations takes about 25 minutes. Accessing the services will also require the consent of the child and their legal guardian(s). If callers don’t have time right away, they can always call back or we can schedule a follow-up 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.
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.
We’re here to help you help others.
Call us to discuss resources, tell your clients to call us or make a referral.
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.
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.
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 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 12 years and over.
What are the parameters around consent to treatment?
We must have consent from both legal guardians for children under 12 years of age.
We must get consent from anyone participating in treatment that is over 12 years of age.
If a child or youth over the age of 12 does not want to access counselling or treatment, we can help connect families to local parent/caregiver groups and programs.
We cannot accept 3rd party referrals.
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.
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.