Virtual mental health services expanded

The Ontario government is expanding virtual mental health services to help thousands of Ontarians experiencing anxiety and depression, including frontline health care workers, during the COVID-19 outbreak.

These Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) programs were developed in partnership with MindBeacon and Morneau Shepell and will be provided at no out-of-pocket costs to Ontarians across the province.

“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,” Premier Doug 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.”

As part of the government’s $12 million commitment to mental health during COVID-19, the emergency funding is helping 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 including:

Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT): Clients can self-refer to programs through the various service providers listed and be guided through their client journey to find the appropriate supports they need. Online iCBT is supported by therapists and available in English and French.

Supports for frontline health care workers: 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: These include BounceBack telephone coaching and workbooks, and Kids Help Phone for children and youth.

“In order to help stop the spread of this deadly virus, our frontline workers are working long hours in stressful situations and people across the province are doing their part by staying home, in many cases alone,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said. “We know these actions are not easy and can cause stress, anxiety and other mental health issues. That’s why we are providing virtual mental health supports, allowing people to get the help they need while still physically distancing.”

At Ontario.ca/coronavirus, people can find information about the different virtual mental health and wellness options that meet their unique needs, including online therapy.

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