'Extreme need' in B.C. prompts expansion of free COVID-19 mental health services | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Extreme need' in B.C. prompts expansion of free COVID-19 mental health services

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
July 28, 2020 - 9:00 PM

A virtual mental health service launched to address pandemic related issues in B.C. is now entering a new phase to address public need.

In April, UBCO psychology professor Leslie Lutes recruited more than 250 psychologists to provide free services for individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Callers shared their COVID-19 experience with a registered psychologist, over two-thirds of whom were experiencing moderate levels of distress, Lutes said in a press release.

“We’ve received calls ranging from general anxiety to acute homicide and domestic abuse issues, suicide risks and front-line workers who took the virus home to family members,” she said.

“What concerns me most is the high number of callers, mostly from the general population, in moderate distress. Without proper access to evidence-based resources, prevention and intervention services along with follow-up, these individuals may experience a further decline in their mental health.”

READ MORE: Mental Health Commission launches free mental health tools for essential workers

After reviewing the data from the teletherapy service and the health implications of the pandemic globally, Lutes realized that there was an extreme need for continued mental health support.

The original teletherapy line will cease operations July 31 and be replaced by two new services made possible by private donor funding, university support and partnerships with the B.C. Psychological Association and Vancouver Coastal Health.

A virtual walk-in well-being clinic and an email-assisted online therapy program will be available to B.C. residents for free online.

“These partnerships enable us to offer these supports for free and deliver them in a virtual, distance-learning format, making them accessible to all British Columbians regardless of income or postal code,” Lutes said.

Patients who access UBCO’s walk-in well-being clinic will have a 30-minute virtual consult with a doctoral student in clinical psychology supervised by a registered psychologist. Anyone needing services beyond the support provided will be referred to short-term psychological recovery sessions.

However, given the services' limited capacity, Lutes acknowledged that this is a temporary solution and continues to work with all levels of government and stakeholders to find longer-term strategies.

“The United Nations has warned that a mental health crisis is looming—and that’s completely understandable,” she said.

“COVID-19 has cost us family members, livelihoods, social interactions and much more. If we truly want to rebound from these catastrophic losses—investing in mental health is how we get there.” 

To access additional virtual COVID-19 mental health services, visit the provincial government website here.


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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