BC investing $5M towards expansion of virtual mental health supports

Apr 9 2020, 5:50 pm

The BC government is investing $5 million toward the expansion of existing mental health programs, as well as the launch of new services to support British Columbians, as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

In a joint press conference on Thursday with Judy Darcy, BC’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, BC Premier John Horgan said the government is working to provide more options for mental health support as people continue to self-isolate and stay home in the battle against 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,” said Horgan. “People’s lives have been turned upside down.”

The premier said enhanced virtual services will help all British Columbians with mental health needs arising from the pandemic, with a focus on adults, youth, and frontline healthcare workers.

The funding will also improve accessibility for those living in Indigenous communities and rural and remote parts of the province. It will provide more options for people living with mental health challenges who are currently unable to access in-person support.

“I have heard from people right across BC about how this pandemic is taking a toll on their mental health,” said Darcy. “Whether longstanding 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.”

As part of these efforts, the provincial government is working in partnership with Foundry Youth Centres, the Canadian Mental Health Association – BC Division (CMHA-BC), the BC Psychological Association, and other community partners to deliver new and expanded mental health services. These services include:

  • Providing more access to online programs for mental health by expanding the BounceBack program. BounceBack provides online coaching and the Living Life to the Full program, which helps people deal with life challenges and learn self-management skills (CMHA-BC);
  • Expanding access to no- and low-cost community counselling 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 (CMHA-BC); providing virtual supports for youth ages 12 to 24 by making Foundry services available around the province through voice, video, and chat (FoundryBC); and providing more online tools and resources to help people assess and manage their own mental health;
  • Supporting frontline healthcare workers through a new online hub and providing virtual peer support (CMHA-BC); and a new online psychological support service for healthcare workers (BC Psychological Association).

Existing services are also being “scaled up rapidly” to meet increased need while new services are being implemented.

Virtual support and care will be offered in multiple languages, connecting people living in rural and remote communities and Indigenous peoples throughout the province.

Asked if she was able to provide a specific number for how many people she expected would benefit from this investment, Darcy said it’s “impossible to put a number on it, because there are a number of different programs.”

She encouraged people seeking support to visit the BC government website, “and there is a link there for mental health.”

This funding is in addition to a co-ordinated effort across government to bolster virtual mental health services for children, youth, and students related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several services are available now, while others will come online April 20, 2020.

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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