The Manitoba government is investing in the mental health of Manitobans by introducing a program to help address anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Pandemics bring about a high level of stress and anxiety, and the health and well-being of Manitobans continues to be our priority during this uncertain time,” said Premier Brian Pallister. “Many of us are feeling concerns over whether we will get sick, the health of our families, the security of our jobs, being isolated from our loved ones and many other variables. As part of our emergency response to COVID-19, we are introducing an easily accessible virtual option to help support Manitobans.”
To help Manitobans experiencing mild to moderate anxiety due to COVID-19, the province is partnering with Morneau Shepell, Canada’s leading provider of technology-enabled HR services, to launch an internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) program free of charge to all Manitobans 16 years old and over. The province will spend $4.5 million to provide these services to Manitobans for up to a year.
Morneau Shepell launched this digital therapy program last week in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new program is guided by professional therapists and addresses anxiety symptoms related to the uniquely challenging aspects of pandemics: uncertainty, physical isolation, caring for family and community members, information overload and stress management.
“We know many Canadians are struggling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their mental health,” said Nigel Branker, president, health and productivity solutions at Morneau Shepell. “With the requirements to self-isolate and practice physical distancing, we are offering a convenient, digital program that can be accessed with any smartphone or tablet. Our goal is to facilitate access and provide support to as many people as possible across the country.”
Morneau Shepell’s national network includes thousands of therapists experienced in dealing with the psychological impact of various traumatic events. Program participants also have access to live crisis counsellors who are available 24-7 if any risk of harm or crisis is identified.
The program will be available in English and French in the coming weeks at manitoba.ca.
Pallister noted this is an additional resource to supplement a number of mental health organizations funded by the Manitoba government. Existing organizations that provide crisis support via phone, text and video conference will continue to provide support through the pandemic.