The often repeated “two weeks to flatten the curve” refrain heard at the beginning of the pandemic has turned into almost two years of restrictions, closures, and limitations. And it’s taken a toll on the mental health of adults and children across the country. The number of teenage girls who were seen at Quebec hospital emergency rooms after attempting suicide rose by 23 per cent in 2021, according to the province’s public health institute.
In response to the rise in mental health and substance use concerns, Wellness Together Canada was created and launched in April 2020.
With help “just a call or click away”, the bilingual online portal offers free support for all ages, and in every province and territory. Funded by the Government of Canada, the website connects Canadians with different levels of support. This includes access to self-directed virtual programs, peer support workers, group chats, or one-on-one help by video, phone, or text with a mental health professional or crisis responder. Users can be put in touch right away with one of the thousands of counsellors or schedule a time in the future. The service is free, immediate, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
A collaborative effort
The program is the collaborative work of organizations with experience in providing digital mental health and substance use support. It is led by Stepped Care Solutions, Kids Help Phone, Homewood Health and supported by Greenspace Health. Other partners include Bell Let’s Talk, Canada Health Infoway, Mental Health Commission of Canada, Canadian Psychological Association, and Medavie.
“Mental wellness is difficult to maintain with the disruptions happening now. It’s not easy to maintain a routine. People in every community are struggling and need our help,” said Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, during the program’s launch. “That’s why we are acting today to make it easier for Canadians to identify, understand and address issues they are facing, with multiple tools and resources available on one platform.”
Program in its second year
COVID-19 continues to circulate and cause unprecedented levels of depression and anxiety among children and adults. The portal has become vital to those struggling. In its first year, it was accessed more than 3.7 million times by 1.2 million Canadians. In 2021, the federal government pledged to renew funding for the platform, and allocated $62 million to keep running the site and funding its services.
New app introduced
In mid-January, 2022, a free companion app was introduced. PocketWell provides another way to access online mental health and substance use resources. The app helps users measure and track aspects of their mental well-being.
“At the beginning of COVID-19, in recognition of increasing mental health concerns, Health Canada supported a consortium of leaders in digital mental health and substance use to develop Wellness Together – a platform that would make it easier for people to identify, understand and access free and confidential mental health and substance use services,” said Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health. “Today, we are pleased to join our partners to launch the PocketWell App to improve access to the Wellness Together platform.”
For more information, visit wellnesstogether.ca, call 1-866-585-0445, or by text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth, and 741741 for adults. Frontline Workers can text FRONTLINE to 741741.
With #WellnessTogetherCanada‘s new companion app, #PocketWell, you can track your feelings and mood or even connect to talk to someone one-on-one. Support is available 24/7 and is just a click away. Find it in your app store now. pic.twitter.com/6GFbgq8pBF
— Mental Health Commission of Canada (@MHCC_) January 21, 2022
If you are in immediate danger or need urgent medical support, call 911. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 (24/7). People experiencing family violence or gender-based violence should go to ShelterSafe.ca, which connects women and their children to the nearest shelter, There is also SOS violence conjugale 24/7 at 1-800-363-9010.
Canada-wide services include:
- Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
Available to young Canadians between 5 to 29 years old who are seeking 24-hour confidential and anonymous care with professional counsellors.
- Hope for Wellness 24/7 Help Line: 1-855-242-3310
Available to all Indigenous peoples across Canada who are seeking immediate crisis intervention.
- Childhelp National Child Abuse 24/7 Hotline (multilingual service available): 1-800-422-4453
Help with finding the contact information of the child protection service in your area.
Other important Quebec services include:
- Crime Victims Assistance Centres: 1-866-532-2822
- Elder Mistreatment Helpline: 1-888-489-2287
- Helpline for Victims of Sexual Assault: 1-888-933-9007
- Quebec Community and Social Services Helpline: 211
- Women Aware Support Line: 1-866-489-1110
- Youth Protection Services: 1-800-567-6810