Very few of those reporting COVID-19 stress are using the free online tools that are available
By Caitlin Finlay
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed much in our daily lives, and with case numbers increasing and restrictions tightening throughout Canada, it’s normal to feel worried and even anxious. And yet it seems that even those who could benefit from the many free mental-health resources available online aren’t using them.
A new study by researchers with the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has shown that most Canadians—more than 95% of those reporting symptoms—aren’t using these resources.
“Even among people who were experiencing mental distress of various types, and in groups who would likely benefit from these resources, the uptake was quite low,” said Emily Jenkins, the lead researcher and a professor of nursing at UBC. “These programs are ideally positioned for the types of difficult experiences and emotions that we’re seeing during the pandemic. They are well suited for people who are having trouble coping and need some support to manage their mental health. They’re also easily accessed, and many are available in different languages.”
Of the 3,000 people surveyed in May, 65% reported COVID-19 related adverse mental-health effects. Only 2% of these respondents, however, reported accessing online mental-health resources, and researchers suspect that those who did access online resources were likely referred by their care providers. Only 3% of those who reported symptoms of anxiety or stress had accessed online resources, and only 4% of those reporting feeling hopeless, depressed, or panicked had used them.
A lot of awareness has been raised about hand-washing, wearing a mask, and social distancing, but there seems to be a lack of awareness about the effects of COVID-19 measures on mental health and the availability of free online mental health resources. If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed, it’s important to reach out to your health-care provider or access the online resources available.
Below is a list of available mental health resources:
- Wellness Together Canada is a federally funded program that offers free access to 24/7 online support for mental health or substance abuse.
- The Mental Health Commission of Canada offers a list of provincial and territorial COVID-19 resources as well as various posters, tips, webinars, and other resources.
- The Canadian Mental Health Association has a program called BounceBack that provides online mental-health coaching and is available to those in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and is expanding throughout Canada.
- WellCan offers resources to help Canadians build coping strategies to deal with mental health, substance abuse, finances, and uncertainty concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.
- MindBeacon is a for-profit cognitive behavioural therapy program that is available for free to Ontarians during the COVID-19 pandemic.