Ontario Expands Virtual Mental Health Services During COVID-19

News Release

Ontario Expands Virtual Mental Health Services During COVID-19

Free Internet-Based Programs Help People Cope with Unprecedented Situation

May 5, 2020 1:00 P.M.

Office of the Premier

TORONTO ― Starting today, 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.

The details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, during National Mental Health Week.

“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,” said Premier Ford. “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,” said Minister Elliott. “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.”

The province has also established a Mental Health and Addictions COVID-19 Response Table, led  by the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence at Ontario Health, to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on access to public mental health and addictions services. Its members include representatives from across Ontario’s mental health and addictions sector, who are working collaboratively to focus on maintaining services during the outbreak. The Response Table is identifying concerns and implementing quick solutions, supporting virtual care strategies, sharing best practices, and connecting with other COVID-19 regional and provincial tables to ensure any issues impacting the province’s mental health and addictions system are quickly resolved.

“Ontario’s mental health and addictions organizations are working around-the-clock to ensure individuals and families have access to the critical mental health and addictions supports they need,” said Minister Tibollo. “I applaud these mental health professionals for their commitment, dedication and compassion during these unprecedented times.”

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.

Quick Facts

  • This week is National Mental Health Week, Maternal Mental Health Week and Children’s Mental Health Week, which coincides with National Child and Youth Mental Health Day on May 7.
  • Five hospitals have partnered with the Ministry of Health and the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence at Ontario Health to provide specific services for frontline health workers: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, The Royal Mental Health Centre, and Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care.
  • Mental health and addictions challenges affect over one million Ontarians each year.

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