BC Premier John Horgan has announced that the provincial government will be spending $5 million towards expanding existing mental health programs and services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government is making an effort to ensure British Columbians have increased access to vital mental health supports during this unprecedented and stressful time.

“If you are feeling anxious, stressed, depressed or disconnected because of COVID-19, I want you to know that you are not alone,” said Premier John Horgan. “Our government is working to give you more options for mental health support as we all stay home to prevent the spread of this virus.”

According to the BC Government, the money will be spent towards helping all residents with mental health needs with a focus on adults, youth and front-line health care workers.

The funding will also increase access to mental health services for Indigenous communities and those living in rural and remote parts of the province, according to the government.

“I have heard from people right across B.C. about how this pandemic is taking a toll on their mental health,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Whether longstanding challenges are flaring up or you’re struggling with your mental health for the first time – we’re here for you. We’re working quickly to expand virtual mental health services to ensure that when you reach out for support, someone will be there to help.”

The provincial government announced on Thursday that it will partner with Foundry Youth Centres, the Canadian Mental Health Association – BC Division (CMHA-BC), the BC Psychological Association and other community partners to deliver new and expanded mental health services.

The new services outlined by the government include:

  • providing more access to online programs for mental health by expanding the BounceBack program. BounceBack provides online coaching and the Living Life to the Full program, which helps people deal with life challenges and learn self-management skills (CMHA-BC);
  • expanding access to no- and low-cost community counselling programs, including those that serve immigrant and refugee populations, and enabling them to be delivered virtually;
  • increasing access to online peer support and system navigation (CMHA-BC);
  • providing virtual supports for youth aged 12 to 24 by making Foundry services available around the province through voice, video and chat (FoundryBC)
  • providing more online tools and resources to help people assess and manage their own mental health;
  • supporting front-line health-care workers through a new online hub and providing virtual peer support (CMHA-BC)
  • a new online psychological support service for health-care workers (BC Psychological Association)
“The COVID-19 pandemic is having profound impacts on the mental health of British Columbians, with increased reports of stress, worry, depression, anxiety and loss. This investment will help the CMHA and our partners respond to the growing mental health impacts of COVID-19 through increased access to warm, compassionate and skilled virtual care,” said CEO of CMHA-BC Jonny Morris. “It is critical that expanded access to mental health and substance use care is part of the ongoing response to COVID-19. Now, more than ever, we need these mental health supports to reach people, even while we remain physically apart.”

The services offered throughout the province are rapidly being scaled up and transitioned online to enable more accessibility for British Columbians.

“We may feel stress. We may feel bouts of depression… but we can get through this,” said Premier Horgan.

The emphasis on virtual support and care will be offered in multiple languages, as well as connect people living in rural and remote communities and Indigenous peoples throughout the province. The Province will continue to collaborate with Indigenous partners to ensure these services are culturally safe and responsive to the needs of Indigenous peoples in rural and urban areas.

This funding is in addition to a coordinated effort across government to bolster virtual mental health services for children, youth and students related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Horgan’s announcement comes the same day that Statistics Canada revealed that over one million Canadians lost their job during the month of March.

Graham Cox