As President and CEO of Kids Help Phone, Katherine (Kathy) Hay drives the strategic direction, innovation imperative and culture of Canada’s only national, 24/7 bilingual e-mental health service for young people. In 2020, Kids Help Phone’s team of counsellors and crisis responders made over 4.6 million connections with youth in every province and territory — with an ever-growing mandate to always be there for youth when, where and how they need mental health support.
Driven to reduce barriers and find new solutions, partnerships and innovations to save lives, Kathy recognized 2020 would be challenging as the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact Canada. With the commitment to never turn the lights off, especially when young people needed Kids Help Phone the most, at Kathy’s direction, the leadership team expanded access through partnerships, launched new services and hired additional counsellors.
Under Kathy’s leadership, Kids Help Phone strives to deliver better experiences, better outcomes and more cost-effective e-mental health services to people in Canada, particularly those from underserved communities.
With the third highest youth suicide rate in the industrialized world, Black youth across Canada are twice as likely to die by suicide compared to white youth, and Indigenous youth are at least six times more likely to die by suicide compared to non-Indigenous youth. In Kathy’s words, “In a country like Canada, it is shocking that Black, Indigenous and all BIPOC youth have been so badly let down. This must change.”
Kathy is leading the organization’s work to take decisive action to acknowledge and eliminate any existence or influence of systemic anti-Black racism across Kids Help Phone and in the ways it opens access to BIPOC youth reaching out for help. As one of the first CEOs in Canada to sign the BlackNorth Initiative’s Pledge to end anti-Black systemic racism, Kids Help Phone’s commitment to BIPOC youth will not waver. This work builds on the critical progress being made by Kids Help Phone to improve its outreach to and support of Indigenous youth with the 2019 launch of Finding Hope, an Action Plan for Supporting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Young People.
Prior to joining Kids Help Phone, Kathy was President and CEO of Women’s College Hospital Foundation where she advanced the health of women across Canada and achieved record levels of support. Her success in this role led to her being named one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence in 2017. She was also the CEO of Credit Valley Hospital Foundation and has held senior roles at the University of Toronto, the University of Guelph and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Kathy’s shining achievements to date are her two amazing children, and now a grandson!