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ConnecTeen at the Expo

A Call 4 Help

Community by Evan Kayne (From GayCalgary® Magazine, June 2014, page 14)

ConnecTeen is a program offered by the Distress Centre Calgary, functioning as a confidential peer support service for youth in Calgary and area. The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo might seem like an odd place for them to promote their services however, because teens interact with multiple media (Twitter/Facebook/chat/texting), ConnecTeen has to be innovative in how it reaches out to its audience. One of those innovations is a superhero comic book dealing with the adventures of four ConnecTeen volunteers.

At the Expo I met Robyn Romano from ConnecTeen and Steele J. Duncan from ZEDS Comic Communications when they unveiled the comic book A Call 4 Help. Robyn told me the inspiration for this came a couple years ago when ConnecTeen was " a Mental Health Awareness Week Twitter panel. Derek from ZEDS tweeted and said Hey your logo looks pretty comic booky, have you guys every thought of doing a comic book to talk about your services?"

From there the comic book sprang to life. The artistic talents of Taylor Quinn, Steele J. Duncan and Matthew G. Nyitrai were essential in bringing this project to life.

It wasn’t completed overnight – they wanted to do it right. It was two years of interaction between the two groups. ZEDS came in and interviewed their volunteers to get an idea of how ConnecTeen works.

"We’re really hoping to accomplish an innovative way to get the word out there about our services to youth," Romano says. "It’s a comic; it tells a story of what our volunteers do, as well as has ways to contact ConnecTeen embedded throughout."

It’s another avenue for young people who may be having some troubling issues, issues that they may be too shy to discuss with family or friends. This could mean questions about sexuality, depression, bullying, or family conflict.

Admitting you may be having issues can be stigmatizing, especially for teens facing peer pressure or even bullying. Much as the comic book was an innovative way to promote their services, ConnecTeen has had to be innovative as to what avenues of communication they offer for teens requiring their services. Multiple platforms are available – a 24 hour phone service, website, Twitter, a chat program, and in November of last year they launched a texting service.

Romano feels the texting service is especially helpful.

"I think part of what happens when you have that texting service, people are more willing to share more," she says. "They’re more willing to talk about things they may not feel comfortable talking about on the phone, because there’s that one extra barrier."

Often that one extra barrier, one extra level of separation, gives someone in need the courage to start a conversation.

"We’ll see a lot more things come up in the texting that we won’t see come up in the phone calls," Romano states.

A Call 4 Help printed copies were handed out at the Calgary Expo, but you can download an electronic version on their website. If you or a teenager you know needs to talk, there are multiple ways you can reach ConnecTeen:

• Phone: 403.264.TEEN (8336) Answered 24 hours a day, but peer support is available from 5pm-10pm.

• Chat: Every day, from 5pm – 10pm. The sign-in for chat is found at

• Text: 587.333.2724  Every day, from 5-10pm.

Visit this article online to see the video interview at the Calgary Expo.

VIDEO - ConnecTeen & the comic book "A Call 4 Help"


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