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B.C. launches free app to connect youth to mental health support

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated May 7, 2021 at 10:20 pm PDT

Summary

People aged 12-24 and caregivers in every community in B.C. will have access to the Foundry app

One expert says online access is a good start, not a substitute for in-person, continuous care

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health struggles for almost everyone, especially young people. B.C. is now introducing a new app aimed at connecting youth to support, closing some gaps to access.

Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions, says people aged 12-24 and caregivers in every community in B.C. will have access to the Foundry app which connects youth to counselling, peer support, or youth groups.

“All the Foundry services were designed by and for youth, and with youth in mind — making sure that the voices of young people in B.C. guided the process of this app’s development from start to finish,” said Malcolmson.

“This is a big win for families and youth who have had no access to these services close to home.”

“This app that we’re launching today will give youth — especially living in rural and remote areas of our province — the chance to seek and receive help and services on demand,” said Mitzi Dean, minister of children and family development.

Accessibility and stigma

With demand for mental health support skyrocketing amidst the pandemic, Sarah Blackmore, clinical counsellor with Peak Resilience in Vancouver and manager of mental wellness programs at the YMCA of Greater Vancouver says, increasing support is a positive thing, but adds there are limitations to certain approaches.

“We know that more mental health support is needed. Anything that allows greater access, mental health support, and care for young people is great,” she said.

“There are young people living at home with siblings who only have access to one device that they’re trying to share for online learning. So how is this going to work in terms of accessibility?” she asks.

“I’m also thinking about fast and secure internet access in remote parts of the province. How are those young people going to be able to use this app and access digital services?”

RELATED: ‘Such despair they can’t see past it’: Pandemic-driven mental health crises on the rise in Canada

Blackmore said digital access is great for youth who are online and can navigate that space. However, there’s still a stigma surrounding mental health for youth in terms of accessing support.

“I think the biggest question is: Will young people use this? Will youth download the app, login, will they follow through and book a session? What happens if they don’t show up for their session? How can we connect with them and really make sure that they’re getting the support services they need?”

Same-day support access and a continuity of care

Pairing same day support access with ongoing support is critical says Blackmore.

“We know that one appointment, one session, is not enough for young people. I agree that a more comprehensive follow-up, follow-through continuity of care plan is needed,” she said.

She also said online options aren’t a replacement for in-person sessions, and if possible she’d like to see digital access linked to localized in-person support, care, and connection post pandemic.

The Foundry BC app can be downloaded from the Apple app and Google Play store. Support by phone is available at 1833-308-6379.

BC Children’s Hospital seeing more young people struggling with their mental health

The hospital has seen a 30 per cent increase in people under the age of 18 dealing with depression and anxiety compared to the same time last year.

Psychiatrist Dr. Ashley Miller has some advice for parents if they’re noticing their kids are having a hard time.

“One of the most important things to do first is just to acknowledge that we are struggling, there’s been a lot of loss, grief, anxiety for everyone. And be kind to ourselves.”

“Another thing we can do is take a break for ourselves, like mindfulness practice or reaching out to a friend. As parents and caregivers we can do that first and then we are in a better place to help our kids and also to give them skills to use.”

Miller says parents can also help their children by spending quality time with them.

Adding if parents are worried their kid might be struggling, to not hesitate to contact their family doctor.