The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many changes that have left many of us feeling uncertain about the future, which can result in sadness, confusion and anxiety. In pre-pandemic times, we were able to find support by going in to see your doctor or a therapist or attending a group for support – but with physical distancing, it isn’t as easy.
While it seems like the world has changed significantly, mental health supports remain available, although they may look a little different in how they are offered. As we dive deeper into all things mental health, Dr. Sheila Wijayasinghe stopped by to share the virtual resources and support that is available across the country.
Virtual care means that support can be offered at a distance via phone, email, text, or video platforms. This is very important, as one out of five Canadians experience a mental health or addiction problem, but only one-third saw or talked to a healthcare professional.
Dr. Sheila offered a few steps people can use to get mental health support during the pandemic, the first of which is to look at what’s available and covered under provincial and territorial health plans.
If you have one, contact your family doctor. Many clinics have pivoted to virtual support and some doctors will do mental health checks via email/phone or video chat. If you need support beyond your family doctor, they may be able to help connect you the resources in your community and in more severe situations, will connect you to a psychiatrist.
If you don't have a family doctor, there are other virtual medical providers who can provide support that vary by province and local support. Emergency mental health supports remain available across the country in the form of visits in person to your doctor or to the emergency rooms or designated mental health urgent care center.
Therapy sessions can be very expensive! If cost is an issue, there are waitlists for covered therapy and groups. Do not feel weird asking for sliding scale. It may not be offered upfront but many if not most will offer a sliding scale based on your financial needs and asking will not compromise your therapy but may increase access more.
There are many alternative options available that are a bit more cost efficient that can connect you with a counselor or therapist online:
In response to the pandemic and need for increased mental health supports, the government has funded this initiative. Wellness Together Canada offers immediate text support, Information and videos on common mental health issues, mental wellness programs, monitored communities of support, and individual virtual counseling.
Bounceback Canada is a free skill-building program managed by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). It is designed to help adults and youth 15+ manage low mood, mild to moderate depression and anxiety, stress or worry. Delivered over the phone with a coach and through online videos, you will get access to tools that will support you on your path to mental wellness.
Aiming to help Canadians with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or trauma as well as substance abuse and problem gambling, this service offers counselling via video, talk or text.
Unlimited Text Therapy is $29.00 per week.
With Inkblot, your first video session is free to make sure it’s a good match, and then you’ll pay $37.50 per 30-minute session.
A Wellin5 online counsellor is available to meet with you through our video counselling platform, when and where it works best for you. Video sessions are $34 for 30 minutes or $68 for 60 minutes.
There is a lot of science that backs introducing meditation into your daily life to help your mental health. It may help people reduce stress and anxiety, and there are plenty of apps to help you get started.
Dr. Sheila shared a few to try, below:
There are profound mental health disparities that affect BIPOC communities. For example, Black individuals are significantly more likely to experience mental illness compared to other racial/ethic groups in Canada.
Dr. Sheila shared resources for BIPOC individuals across the country.
Healing in Color offers a directory of BIPOC therapists who are committed to supporting BIPOC in all our intersections. By helping to connect our community in this way, we aim to revitalize a legacy of healing, liberation work and resiliency practices that have been lost/taken.
In Toronto, Wellnest offers services with diverse therapists for unique needs. Their purpose is to provide safe and compassionate environment as well as work to explore challenges and understand your own mental health.
Hope for Wellness help line offers immediate help to all Indigenous peoples across Canada. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to offer counseling and crisis intervention. You can call their toll free number 1-855-242-3310 (toll-free) or connect online via their chat. The service is available in English, French and Cree/Ojibway and Inuktitut.
Research shows that LGBT people have higher rates of mental health challenges than the general population. LGBT youth are about three to four times as likely to attempt suicide as their peers. Dr. Sheila shared some invaluable resources for mental health support.
A Queer, Trans, Two-Spirit* youth-led organization that affirms and supports the experiences of youth across Ontario. They provide anonymous peer support and referrals, train youth to provide support to other youth, and provide resources so youth can make informed decisions.
A grassroots hotline and organization offering direct emotional and financial support to Trans people in crisis – for the Trans community, by the Trans community.
TrevorSpace is an affirming international community for LGBTQ young people ages 13-24.
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This is also a tough time for a lot of kids. Many parents might not know where to start to get help if their child is struggling. For starters, family doctors, adolescent pediatricians and child psychiatrists are available and covered by provincial health plans. Dr. Sheila also shared other resources for children:
You can call or text Kids help phone to connect 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free), KIDS HELP PHONE TEXT: text CONNECT to 686868. It's available 24 hours/day for Canadians aged 5-9 who need confidential and can be anonymous care from professional counselor.
You can connect directly with a Kids Help Phone counsellor five days a week using the Always There chat app, and talk about anything. It’s free, confidential and anonymous for young people living in Canada.
In emergency situations, it is always safe and prudent to call 911 if there is a risk. Emergency mental health supports remain available across the country in the form of visits in person to your doctor or to the emergency rooms or designated mental health urgent care centers.
If you need to speak to someone because you are facing crisis:
Call 1-833-456-4566, or text START to 741741.
Here's how to find a therapist or counselor in each province and territory, across the country.
When it comes to mental health, every action counts! Join the conversation on Bell Let’s Talk Day, January 28, and help create positive change for those living with mental health issues. For every text message, mobile or long-distance call made by Bell, Bell Aliant and Bell MTS customers, Bell will donate five cents to Canadian mental health initiatives. The same goes for every tweet or TikTok video with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, watching the Bell Let’s Talk Day video on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest or TikTok, or using the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or Snapchat filter. But that’s just the first step: Visit letstalk.bell.ca for more ways you can effect change and build awareness around mental health.
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