B.C. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy speaks to reporters at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 24, 2020. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. unveils $5M for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Will include virtual clinics and resources for British Columbians, including front-line workers

The province has unveiled $5 million in funding to expand virtual mental health supports for those struggling through the uncertainty and stress of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you’re a front-line worker, you’re working hard, you’re stressed – your family is stressed – you’re under intense pressure. People have lost their jobs, business have been shuttered. Seniors are safe at home but they’ve lost their connection to the outside world in many cases and those who live alone or in remote areas are feeling more alone than ever before,” Premier John Horgan said during a news conference on Thursday (April 9).

“Whether you are feeling stuck at home, or separated from other people, this pandemic has been difficult for all of us. Everyone is experiencing stress, anxiety, depression and disconnection from what the world was supposed to be.”

Horgan, alongside Mental Health Minister Judy Darcy, announced a suite of new mental health supports for those in need – both for adults and resources targeted to youth.

Such programs include the province’s BounceBackBC online counselling service, which will now operate for free with no referral needed from a doctor.

Online services will also be made available for youth aged 12 to 24 by FoundryBC though its virtual clinic which will offer voice, video and chat appointments.

Meanwhile, existing services will be scaled up rapidly to meet increased need while new services will go live on April 20.

An estimated 132,000 people have lost their jobs in the last month, many due to the economic impacts of the pandemic.

“We fully recognize that, too much through our history, access to mental health care or addiction support has depended on the size of your bank account,” Darcy said.

“We’re working to change that and these programs, the overwhelming majority of the ones I’ve referred to today, are free or very, very low cost.”

Seniors who cannot access online technology should contact 211 to connect with help, Darcy added.

The new mental health supports come as the country faces uncertainty of when the novel coronavirus – and all the social distancing protocols it has brought with it – will no longer disrupt regular life.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said regulations will be in place, on and off, until a vaccine is created, recognizing this would come as difficult news to many.

Resources available in B.C., and how to find them:

For everyone

Do you need help right away?

Call the Canadian Mental Health Association crisis line anytime at 1-800-784-2433 or 310-6789.

You can also text 45645 to speak with the Canada Suicide Prevention Service, or visit the online chat service at crisisservicescanada.ca.

BounceBack

BounceBack provides free access to online, video and phone-based coaching and skills-building program. Seniors, adults and youth who are experiencing low mood, mild to moderate depression, anxiety, stress, or worry, can receive care.

Register for programs and connect with a coach at BounceBack, or learn more at Canadian Mental Health Association – B.C. Division.

Living Life to the Full

Free access to Living Life to the Full peer support and practical skills courses for coping with stress, problem solving and boosting mood. The 8-week course is led by a trained facilitator.

Get more information at Living Life to the Full.

BC COVID-19 Mental Health Self-Assessment Tool

Available starting April 20. A set of mental health screening self-tests alongside the COVID-19 self-assessment tool.

For youth

Foundry Virtual Clinic

Nine existing virtual Foundry centres are now accepting virtual walk-in counselling. Visit Foundry to find a centre in your community.

As of April 20, 2020, young people 12-24 and their families will be able to access youth-focused virtual clinics offering counselling, peer support, primary care and family support through voice calls, video and chat.

Y Mind

Young people 13-30 can sign up for six-seven week long programs online for free starting early May 2020. The YMCA of British Columbia’s Y Mind program helps young people cope with stress, worry and anxiety.

Learn about Y Mind (YMCA of Greater Vancouver), or find a YMCA Location. Programs are available across the province.

Child and Youth Teams

Intake services and mental health counselling from the Ministry of Children and Family Development for children and youth across B.C. Virtual care by phone and online is available. Call your closest Child and Youth Mental Health clinic.

For seniors

bc211

The Province has expanded funding for bc211, a province-wide information and referral service. It matches volunteers to seniors whose support network has been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The service takes calls from people who would like to volunteer to help seniors in their community with basic needs, including grocery shopping and pharmacy drop-offs and check-ins.

Visit bc211 to register for the Safe Seniors, Strong Communities Program.

For victims of family or sexual violence

VictimLink BC

Immediate 24-7 crisis support for victims of family or sexual violence is available by phone through VictimLink BC’s telephone service. This service also provides information and referrals for all victims of crime.

Call 1-800-563-0808 or email VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca to get help. Learn more about VictimLink BC.

For Indigenous peoples

Mental Health and Cultural Supports

Many phone and online counselling, support programs, and treatment and healing centres are available virtually for Indigenous people across B.C. Learn more by clicking here.

For health-care workers

Mobile Response Team (MRT)

In addition to supporting workers on the frontlines of the Overdose Public Health Emergency, the MRT will also support the mental well-being and psychological safety of frontline health care workers who are experiencing exponential distress and mental health concerns in response to COVID-19.

To access, call or email the Provincial Health Services Authority. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Call 1-888-686-3022 or email MRT@phsa.ca.

Free Online Mental Health First Aid

New online supports for frontline health care workers to help them cope with any psychological effects they may be experiencing.

Request mental health first aid through the BC Psychological Association.

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Online Resource Hub

Available starting April 20. An expanded resources hub will include information to improve psychological and social supports. It provides strategies to help frontline workers take care of their mental health and well-being. Learn more by clicking here.

Virtual Peer Support Service

Available starting May 2020. A phone and text-based peer support service, staffed by former long-term care and home support workers. It provides confidential emotional support to current workers. Peers can also help guide callers to other services and supports if needed. Learn more by clicking here.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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