(Premier John Horgan/Province of British Columbia - Flickr)

The provincial government has announced a $5 million investment to expand virtual mental health services for individuals and front-line health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These enhanced services, as well as new supports created through this fund, will focus on helping adults, youth, and front-line health care workers.

See also: Shoppers Drug Mart providing free online mental health support during COVID-19

The funding also increases access to supports for Indigenous communities and those living in rural and remote parts of the province.

B.C. will be partnering with Foundry Youth Centres, the Canadian Mental Health Association – BC Division (CMHA-BC), the BC Psychological Association and other community partners to deliver the expanded mental health services.

These services and expansions include:

  • Expanding access to free online, video and phone-based coaching and skills-building program through BounceBackBC, for anyone experiencing low mood, mild to moderate depression, anxiety, stress or worry. For the first time, anyone can access this service without a referral from doctors.
  • Expanding access to virtual community counselling for individuals or groups at low or no cost.
  • Expanding access to virtual mentoring and supports by increasing the number of peer support and system navigation workers through the Canadian Mental Health Association.
  • Launching access to free virtual Living Life to the Full peer support and practical skills courses for coping with stress, problem solving and boosting mood. The eight-week course is led by a trained facilitator.
  • On April 20th, launching a set of mental health screening self-tests alongside the COVID-19 self-assessment tool.
  • Starting April 20th, nine existing virtual Foundry centres will be accepting virtual walk-in counselling. This will be facilitated by the creation of a new province-wide youth-focused virtual clinic with counselling, peer support, primary care and family support for young people aged 12 to 24 and their families will be available via voice, video and chat.

The $5 million investment also facilitates the funding of a series of mental health initiatives to support front-line health care workers.

These include:

  • Expanding the services of the Mobile Response Team, from supporting health care workers during overdoses, to also supporting the mental well-being and psychological safety of front-line health-care workers, specifically home-care and long-term care workers.
  • Creating a free online mental health first aid through the BC Psychological Association.
  • Starting April 20th, expanding online resources to include information to improve psychological and social supports and provide strategies to help front-line workers take care of their mental health and well-being.
  • In May, launching a phone and text-based peer support service, staffed by former long-term care and home support workers, to provide confidential emotional support to current workers, and referrals to other services and supports.

Last month, the provincial government expanded their 2-1-1 phone line in order to help support seniors living at home who are at risk of becoming isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The operators manning the 2-1-1 line work to connect volunteers or services to those seniors who need help. Any senior needing assistance or volunteer wishing to provide help across B.C. can now access the phone line and reach a live operator who will then match them up.


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