The North West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) is pleased to announce new free, technology-based mental health resources available to residents of Northwestern Ontario.
Supported by funding from the provincial government, the services are designed to help adults and youth manage mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Big White Wall (bigwhitewall.ca) is an anonymous online mental health platform that is available 24/7, without the need of a referral, for people over the age of 16.
Co-ordinated by the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN), Big White Wall provides a supportive online community, education, and guided self-help programs with the aim of reducing social isolation for people dealing with anxiety and depression.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (Ontario Division), meanwhile, is offering BounceBack (bouncebackontario.ca), a free skill-building program designed for people over the age of 15 to better manage low mood, stress, and worry.
The program offers two types of support: one-on-one telephone coaching using workbooks and a series of online videos that offer practical tips.
People interested in this program are encouraged to talk with their family physician or nurse practitioner to get a referral.
The online videos are accessible at any time at bouncebackvideo.ca (using access code bbtodayon).
Bounceback and Big White Wall both are funded as part of a three-year structured psychotherapy demonstration project.
“The North West LHIN is committed to improving access to mental health and addictions services by traditional face-to-face means and new innovative ways of providing care,” said Dr. Rhonda Crocker Ellacott, CEO of the North West LHIN.
“With the help of the Ontario Telemedicine Network and the Canadian Mental Health Association (Ontario), we are helping to promote these free programs.
“We would like to thank the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for the funding for this program and we are grateful to our partners for their support,” she added.
“Many people struggling with depression and anxiety can feel isolated, and sometimes that feeling worsens during the winter when it is harder for many to get out,” noted Dr. Sarah Newbery, vice-president of Clinical Services for the North West LHIN.
“There are lots of ways to work towards better mental health, including getting good sleep, staying physically active, and connecting with others,” she noted.
“BounceBack and Big White Wall offer unique ways to seek support and be connected to other people,” Newbery added.
“Patients in my practice who I have referred to these programs have found them really helpful.”
“Basically I lived in a remote area and did not have access to immediate service,” said a Big White Wall member.
“With Big White Wall, there was immediacy of contact, either with someone going through a similar situation or who had been, or a Wall Guide who could step in and give me nice guidance to get me through safely,” the member noted.
“I greatly benefited from the program,” echoed a BounceBack participant.
“I was very motivated but slightly skeptical at first,” the person admitted. “[But] within two weeks of starting, I noticed positive changes in my behaviour.
“My coach has been very helpful and has been closely following my progress.”