For many, Christmas is definitely NOT the most wonderful time of the year, and the demand for help with depression and anxiety spikes during the winter months. The wait times for support are long- a recent call to a psychiatrist was met with the news that there were 100 names ahead on the waiting list. When you feel overwhelmed, waiting does not feel like a viable option.
The Canadian Mental Health Association of Ontario (CMHA) recognizes that immediate help is the best help, and when staff is already overloaded, there is another option available within a few days. It is a program called “BounceBack”. This is a guided self-help program designed for participants 15 years or older facing symptoms of mild to mediate depression. It combines individual homework with personal support from a coach who helps the participant work through a series of workbooks aimed at improving emotional well-being. Originally launched in 2008 in British Columbia, it has been used by more than 30,000 participants in that province and is now available in Ontario thanks to new funding announced last October. As part of Ontario’s commitment to develop a province wide, publicly funded psychotherapy program, additional mental health programs to help patients address conditions such as anxiety and depression will be rolled out over the next three years. There is also an online mental health self-management tools coordinated by the Ontario Telemedicine Network. Access to these programs and other mental health supports is available by contacting ConnexOntario.
BounceBack participants submit an online application to get the process started. Ideally the participant’s family doctor or nurse practitioner is in the loop and provides a referral, but this step can be by-passed by providing a valid health card number. The program begins with a telephone call within a few days and involves three to six telephone sessions with a coach, who will identify the most appropriate workbooks for each participant. The most popular topics in the program are becoming more assertive, changing unhelpful thinking and overcoming sleep problems. Coaches guide participants through the program materials, helping them develop new skills, maintain motivation levels and monitor participant progress. Because BounceBack coaches are not clinicians, they don’t provide counselling but can help develop skills to better manage stress, low mood, and worry.
For immediate help, there is a series of online videos that can be accessed at any time offering practical tips on managing mood, how to improve your sleep, build confidence, increase activity, problem solving skills, and general adopt healthy living practices into your daily life.
For staff at CHMA, having more tools available is a very welcome development. According to Mark Graham, CEO of the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge branch of the CMHA, “The BounceBack Program will provide residents in our catchment area who struggle with mild to moderate depression and/or anxiety, giving them the tools to boost their mood and improve their health and happiness. It’s also offering equitable access to healthcare that people who suffer from mental illness deserve.”
Public messages from programs including Bell’s Let’s Talk are changing perspectives surrounding mental health issues, but the statistics remain alarming: according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, by the time Canadians reach age 40, 1 in 2 have – or have had – a mental illness. Clearly those suffering from mental illness are not alone, and with the ongoing pressure to eliminate the stigma associated with this debilitating illness and an increase in the tools available to address it, we can alleviate the suffering and hopefully turn those numbers around. KG
For more information about this program, visit www.ontario.cmha.ca/bounce-back-ontario/#patients. For a crisis, contact the Mental Health hotline at 1-866-531-2600.