free mental health services

Ontario invests $12M in free mental health services for everyone

Many Ontario residents are now midway through their third week in relative self-isolation amid the COVID-19 pandemic — and the significant sacrifices we've all had to make are starting to take a toll.

Multiple levels of government have already invested massive amounts of money into combating the physical and economic consequences of this deadly outbreak since it first hit Ontario in mid January.

While saving lives continues to be the provincial government's top priority, officials stated plainly today that the mental health impacts of being locked down, out of work, isolated or having one's life otherwise disrupted cannot be overlooked.

"We know all of this is taking a toll on the mental health of Ontarians," said Premier Doug Ford in his daily media briefing Thursday afternoon. "Daily routines have been broken and the feeling of being isolated is real."

Ford, who earlier in his remarks called the COVID-19 situation in Ontario "extremely, extremely serious" and urged everyone to stay home as "a matter of life and death," stressed that his government understands how stressful the outbreak has been — and that they want to help.

As such, Ontario is investing $12 million into what Ford called "online virtual mental health supports" for every resident in the province.

"While critical, I know that staying home is no small ask," said Minister of Health Christine Elliott during today's briefing at Queen's Park.

"There are many for whom isolation brings unique challenges for their mental health: anxiety, depression, a growing sense of loneliness or helplessness," she said. "These challenges cannot be diminished, nor will they."

To improve access to mental health services, the province says it is "providing emergency funding of up to $12 million to immediately expand online and virtual mental health supports."

Another $2.6 million will go toward mental health support for Ontario Provincial Police, who've been dealing with unique challenges on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.

These expanded services are being offered in collaboration with existing top-tier resources such as BounceBack, Kids Help Phone and internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) programs.

They are aimed at helping anyone with anxiety and stress as a result of the pandemic, as well as mental health patients who cannot currently see their regular therapists due to the lockdown.

"As we continue to protect the physical health of Ontarians,we must also acknowledge that their mental health is equally as important and take action to protect it," said Elliott when announcing the news.

Ford called upon anyone whose mental health is suffering to seek help immediately.

A full list of expanded resources available to members of the public experiencing mental health challenges can be found on the government's website now.

"My message to everyone watching today it this," said the Premier. "You're not alone, we're listening, we care and if you're struggling, please reach out, talk to someone."

Lead photo by

Premier of Ontario Photography

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