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$5 million boost for virtual help to reduce stress, anxiety and stop spread of COVID-19 in B.C.

Last Updated Apr 9, 2020 at 11:16 am PDT

FILE - Premier John Horgan announced $5 million for virtual mental health during the pandemic on Thursday, April 9, 2020. (Courtesy John Horgan, Twitter)
Summary

Enhanced virtual services will help people with mental health challenges who are unable to access them in-person

The focus is on adults, youth and front-line health care workers, as well as Indigenous and rural communities

Several of the expanded services are currently available and online, while others will be by April 20

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C. Premier John Horgan announced $5 million Thursday to help make a range of existing mental health programs virtual to help reduce stress and anxiety as British Columbians cope with COVID-19.

“If you are feeling anxious, stressed, depressed or disconnected because of COVID-19, I want you to know that you are not alone,” Horgan said. “Our government is working to give you more options for mental health support as we all stay home to prevent the spread of this virus.”

Enhanced virtual services will help people living with mental health challenges who are currently unable to access in-person supports, he added, focussing on adults, youth and front-line health care workers, as well as Indigenous and rural communities.

“I have heard from people right across B.C. about how this pandemic is taking a toll on their mental health,” Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said. “Whether long-standing challenges are flaring up or you’re struggling with your mental health for the first time – we’re here for you. We’re working quickly to expand virtual mental health services to ensure that when you reach out for support, someone will be there to help.”

Darcy also said 200 psychologists across the province have volunteered to help front-line workers and reminded people that social connections are more vital now than ever.

The province is working with Foundry Youth Centres, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the BC Psychological Association and other community partners to deliver the new and expanded services:

  • more access to the BounceBack program, which provides online coaching and the Living Life to the Full program and helps people deal with life challenges and learn self-management skills;
  • more access to no- and low-cost community counseling programs, including those that serve immigrant and refugee populations, and enabling them to be delivered virtually;
  • increasing access to online peer support and system navigation;
  • providing virtual supports for youth aged 12 to 24 by making Foundry services available around the province through voice, video and chat;
  • providing more online tools and resources to help people assess and manage their own mental health;
  • supporting front-line health-care workers through a new online hub and providing virtual peer support;
  • and a new online psychological support service for health-care workers (BC Psychological Association).

“It is critical that expanded access to mental health and substance use care is part of the ongoing response to COVID-19. Now, more than ever, we need these mental health supports to reach people, even while we remain physically apart,” said Jonny Morris, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Several of the expanded services are currently available and online, while others will be by April 20.

The nine Foundry centres are moving services online, starting with drop-in counseling, then peer support services and physical health care.

“At this unprecedented time, it is even more important for youth and families across B.C. to know where to find the supports and services they need,” said Dr. Steve Mathias, executive director of Foundry.