Ontario invests $12 million to expand online mental health resources

May 5 2020, 10:23 am

The Ontario government is investing $12 million to expand virtual mental health services to help Ontarians experiencing anxiety and depression, including frontline health care workers, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford said that the isolation created from physical distancing measures can create heightened stress, anxiety, and depression.

“You are not alone, we will support you,” Ford said in a message directed to those affected.

“It can seem like you’re going through the motions and getting through each day when each day looks the same. It’s more important than ever to reach out for help.”

The $12 million emergency funding will help mental health agencies hire and train more staff, purchase the necessary equipment and technology they need to help patients, and support the creation and enhancement of virtual and online supports for mental health services.

There will be an internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) where clients can self-refer to programs through the various service providers listed.

There will also be expanded supports for frontline health care workers, with online iCBT is available to frontline health care workers experiencing anxiety, burnout or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Those requiring intensive levels of care could be referred to virtual face-to-face care, as well as weekly online peer discussion groups, and access to confidential support from a clinician.

Virtual mental health support services, including BounceBack telephone coaching and workbooks, and Kids Help Phone for children and youth, will be available.

“Even though this virus has taken a heavy toll on our everyday lives, we are doing everything we can to keep people healthy, physically and mentally,” Ford said.

“By expanding access to free virtual and online mental health supports, I want those who are struggling to know that we are here to support and help you cope with the stress, isolation and anxiety during these extraordinary times.”

The province has also established a Mental Health and Addictions COVID-19 Response Table, led by the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence at Ontario Health, to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on access to public mental health and addictions services.

Its members include representatives from across Ontario’s mental health and addictions sector, who are working collaboratively to focus on maintaining services during the pandemic.