B.C. residents can now access free mental health services by phone - InfoNews

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B.C. residents can now access free mental health services by phone

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April 15, 2020 - 2:00 PM

Any B.C. resident who is suffering from stress, anxiety or mental health issues due to the COVID-19 outbreak can now access free online help.

UBC Okanagan and the B.C. Psychological Association have launched a psychological first-aid service to provide over the phone support for anyone in need.

The service consists of a brief telephone consultation with one of 200 volunteer registered psychologists, designed to provide clients with the information and coping strategies they require.

Last week, the service launched for front-line health care workers only, but it has expanded due to an extreme need in the rest of the population, according to a UBCO media release.

“Every person is being affected by COVID-19, and they deserve access to care,” Lesley Lutes, professor of psychology at UBC Okanagan and registered psychologist, said in the release.

Lutes pointed to research following the SARS epidemic in 2003 to demonstrate the mental distress triggered by health emergencies.

The study found those who experienced quarantine were at a high risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” Lutes said. “What’s even more concerning, is that the longer the quarantine, the higher the risk of PTSD.”

The service can be used as many times as needed, however it is important to note that psychological first aid is not the same as psychological therapy, as the psychologists contacting clients will not become their on-going care providers.

The information shared with the psychologist will not be kept on record. Those who fill out the online form to participate can expect to get a call within 24 to 48 hours between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The call will likely be from a blocked number as many psychologists will be using their personal phone from home.

"Unprecedented times call for unprecedented compassion — and it's important that we keep helping each other the best we can," Lutes said.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada has shared information about maintaining mental health, including resources specific to the COVID-19 crisis.

If you are in need of urgent assistance you can contact a 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or the Interior Crisis Line at 1-888-353-2273. Children and youth can also contact the Kids Help Phone by texting 686868 or calling 1-800-668-6868.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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