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Mental health group launches new program thanks to $1M donation

Bell Canada has given the Canadian Mental Health Association $1 million to launch BounceBack, a free guided self-help program
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The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has introduced a new initiative to help people improve their psychological health, with the program made possible through a $1-million donation from Bell Canada's Let’s Talk campaign.

BounceBack is a free guided self-help program that effectively helps adults and youths over age 15 manage low mood, mild to moderate depression, anxiety, stress or worry. Through telephone coaching and skill-building workbooks, participants can customize their program, learn to overcome their symptoms and improve their mental well-being, a news release explained.

More than 19,000 people have completed the program, with 88 per cent saying the program helped them make positive changes in their lives.

“CMHA Saskatchewan is so proud to provide this new service when so many people are struggling with their mental health. COVID-19 is here now, but the mental health impacts will last long after the pandemic is over,” Phyllis O’Connor, executive director of CMHA Saskatchewan, said. “BounceBack can unlock the door to new skills and a better quality of life.”

Based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), BounceBack has been shown to reduce depressive and anxiety symptoms by 50 per cent at program completion, the news release explained. The donation from Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign has enabled the CMHA to use existing expertise in British Columbia, Ontario and Manitoba to expand the effect of this evidence-based program to Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Yukon.

“Bell Let’s Talk is proud to help CMHA Saskatchewan introduce the BounceBack program to Saskatchewan to reach more people in need, as the demand for virtual mental health supports increases as a result of COVID-19 … ,” Mary Deacon, chair of Bell Let’s Talk, said.

“Through the expansion of the BounceBack program, CMHA is supporting the people of Saskatchewan in this time of crisis and uncertainty and building a foundation for recovery in communities across the province.”

Available in English and French, the program is free and will be delivered by coaches who are trained and overseen by clinical psychologists. Participants can be referred by a primary care provider or choose to self-refer as long as they’re connected with a primary care provider. This gives Canadians more choice in accessing support from home, the news release added.

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Mental Health Reform

Besides the BounceBack program, the CMAH is also calling on the federal government to reform the current mental health system to ensure people can access care before they reach a crisis point. The organization believes mental health will be important to any economic recovery, but action must be taken now.

A recent CMHA survey found 87 per cent of Canadians don’t have access to the mental health supports they need, while just 35 per cent agree the current public mental health system is meeting the demand.

“We know that the mental health effects of COVID-19 — including anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts (and) substance use — will last long after the pandemic subsides,” Margaret Eaton, CMHA national CEO, wrote recently. “As we await a fall economic update and federal budget next spring, Ottawa must reform the mental health system for the long haul to ensure people can access care before they reach a crisis point.

“The reality is, there can be no economic recovery without ensuring workers and their families are not just physically, but also mentally healthy.”

Canada needs a long-term mental health pandemic recovery plan that is well-co-ordinated, well-funded and monitored to address persistent and systemic gaps, she continued. It must be designed and implemented to reach the most vulnerable and consider people with mental illness experiences.

The country’s health-care system does not cover basic types of mental health care, such as psychotherapy, counselling, addiction treatment, or peer support services, Eaton added. Thus, many people don’t receive the necessary services they require and the mental health needs of about 1.6 million Canadians go unmet each year.