Posted on January 27, 2020 by Krista Balenko
Canadians with mental health issues are struggling to navigate the health system and often don’t know where to begin, resulting in trips to hospital emergency departments or, sadly, doing nothing at all. There is also still a stigma associated with having a mental illness that makes it difficult for them to reach out for help.
This is something we urgently need to tackle because mental illness affects people of all ages, incomes, education levels and cultures. In any given year, one in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem or illness, and by age 40, half of the population will have or have had a mental illness.
Innovative digital health solutions can offer some measure of hope by reducing the stigma and making it easier for people to get the support they need. Here are a few examples of what’s available now in Canada.
Infoway is working with our partners in Newfoundland and Labrador to make Bridge the gApp available across the Atlantic region. It’s an innovative online mental health resource with a suite of e-mental health services that’s providing guidance and support to more than 33,000 youth and adults in the province each year.
Infoway also formed a partnership with Kids Help Phone to help implement and expand the reach of Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone. It’s Canada’s first 24/7, free nationwide crisis texting service providing mental health support for youth. Since its nationwide expansion last November, there have been more than 125,000 texting conversations with young people across the country, and more than six active rescues and lives saved every day.
Speakbox is another digital service targeted at youth with mental health issues. It was developed by Aidan Scott, a youth mental health advocate. Speakbox is a first-of-its-kind online mental health community that pairs peer support with secure digital journaling and access to a library of evidence-based activities that can help users manage their mental illness with physician-approved tactics. These tools and activities are designed to alleviate perceived isolation and help improve wellness.
Big White Wall is an online mental health community that enables Ontarians to connect with people around the world, openly and anonymously, about their mental health and other issues. The support they receive encourages them to take control of their health.
The ACCESS 2022 movement is encouraging innovators and interested Canadians to come together to develop more solutions like this to help improve mental health care in Canada.
Krista Balenko is an enthusiastic advocate of improving access to care for all Canadians through the use of digital health solutions. She is a Director on Infoway’s ACCESS team and has served in various national, regional, project and change management roles over her 16-year tenure.
*originally published October 15, 2019.