Kids Help Phone (KHP), Elevate and MaRS announce a $2 Million innovation challenge, aimed at reshaping the youth mental health ecosystem, all in support of young people

By: Robyn James, September 26 2023

Leaders from Kids Help Phone, Elevate and MaRS announced they have partnered to launch an innovation challenge to help focus Canada’s leading AI and e-Health startups on creating human-centric improvements for youth mental health.

The partners intend to raise $2 million dollars for the challenge. The funds will be used to define, discover and pilot AI and e-mental health solutions for youth, however they identify, from Canadian startups. The detailed Request for Solutions is expected to be announced early in 2024.

“Suicide is the second-highest cause of death for youth in Canada,” said Katherine Hay, President & CEO of Kids Help Phone. “The youth mental health crisis is more prevelant and acute than it has ever been. And we know this is not going away, unless we all disrupt this landscape, again. Youth are changing faster, technology even faster, and the world is an incredibly challenging place, and complex for young people to navigate. Together with our partners, we want to challenge the innovation community to continue to work with us, creating a personalized and gamified ecosystem that we envision for the future, allowing us to be there for young people in their time of need.”

“Youth mental health is very personal to me,” said Krista Jones, Chief Delivery Officer at MaRS. “It has affected my family and so many others in Canada and around the world. The goal of bringing responsible AI and data science to bear on improving outcomes in this area is a great example of exactly what MaRS is here to do, and we’re thrilled to do our part to connect the tech community to this important cause.”

“This is only the start,” said Lisa Zarzeczny, Co-Founder and CEO of Elevate. “With MaRS Discovery District & Kids Help Phone, we want to inspire Elevate’s incredible network of startups and innovators to join this challenge and help us build the future of mental health for youth from coast to coast to coast.”

For more information, please visit:


  • Kids Help Phone has supported young people nearly 16 million times since the onset of COVID-19 — this number increases every day.
  • On average, 75 per cent of young people share something with Kids Help Phone they’ve never shared with anyone else.
  • On average, 88 per cent of young people feel better after connecting with Kids Help Phone.

Media contacts

MaRS –

Elevate –

Lindsey Coulter – VP, Communications & Donor Relations, Kids Help Phone –

Robyn James – Senior Director of Marketing, Elevate

About Kids Help Phone

Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only 24/7 national, e-mental health service offering free, confidential, multi-lingual support to young people. As the country’s virtual care expert, we give millions of youth a safe, trusted space to Feel Out Loud over the phone, through text, or in self-directed supports for any moment of crisis or need. The Feel Out Loud campaign is the largest movement for youth mental health in Canada’s history – it will raise $300 million to unlock hope for young people to thrive in their worlds. Kids Help Phone gratefully relies on the generosity of donors, volunteers, stakeholder partners, corporate partners and governments to fuel and fund our programs. Learn more at

About Elevate

Elevate is a Canadian non-profit that unites the world’s innovators to solve society’s greatest challenges. Through its annual Elevate Festival and diversity-driven programs for startup founders, the organization spotlights Canadian innovation while bringing about meaningful change at home and on the global stage. Elevate has hosted global icons such as First Lady & Author Michelle Obama, Businesswoman & TV personality Martha Stewart, Tennis Champ & Entrepreneur Venus Williams, Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and U.S. Vice President Al Gore, each of whom have inspired millions of people. Learn more at

About MaRS Discovery District

MaRS is North America’s largest urban innovation hub. A registered non-profit, MaRS supports high-growth startups and scale-ups tackling key issues in the health, cleantech and digital sectors. In addition, MaRS convenes members of the tech ecosystem to drive breakthrough discoveries, grow the economy and make an impact by solving real problems for real people — in Canada and around the world.