Professor of psychology, Lesley Lutes, at University of British Columbia Okanagan said psychological first aid is required early to reduce PTSD and anxiety which can stem from quarantine situation likes during COVID-19 )Photo: SuppliedUBC Okanagan, 2016)

Free mental health services for B.C. residents due to COVID-19

Psychological first-aid is required early to reduce quarantine related stress and anxiety

Free mental health services are being offered to Prince Rupert residents thanks to a collaboration between the Province, University of British Columbia (UBC) and the BC Psychological Association (BCPA).

The telephone based support will be available to any B.C. resident who is experiencing stress, anxiety or uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic, a UBC Okanagan Campus press release issued on April 15, said.

The ‘psychological first-aid’ will offer information and strategies to help people cope with mental health struggles related to traumatic events in an up to 30 minute phone consultation. Psychological first-aid is considered to be best practice in times of crisis, such as the current corona-virus outbreak.

READ MORE: B.C. unveils $5M for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Early access to mental health services and psychologlical first aid reduce the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health impacts, Lesley Lutes, professor of psychology at UBC Okanagan and a registered psychologist said. She is confident this service will provide much needed urgent support for many residents.

The program is not geographically limited, Nathan Skolski, associate director of public affairs told The Northern View. As it is a telephone based service the city in which a resident lives doesn’t matter. Those in need will be partnered to speak to a professional from a list of more that 200 qualified B.C. psychologists who have volunteered for this program.

The program launched one week ago and was initially for the use of front line health care workers, but due to the extreme need was quickly expanded.

“Every person is being affected by COVID-19 and they deserve access to care,” Lutes said.

Lutes noted research from the 2003 SARS epidemic to demonstrate the mental distress that health emergencies can cause.

“The study found those who experienced quarantine were at a high risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” Lutes said, “What’s even more concerning, is that the longer the quarantine, the higher the risk of PTSD.”

“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented compassion—and it’s important that we keep helping each other the best we can. Whether it’s the nurse who is going to care for our most sick and vulnerable, the grocery store clerk ensuring shelves are stocked to keep us fed, or families choosing to stay home to stop the spread,” Lutes said, “We all need to do our part and look after our mental health. We will get through this, together.”

Lutes is confident this service will provide much needed urgent support for many residents.

Residents seeking assistance can access the service by filling out a short online form on the BCPA website or by calling 604-827-0847. They will then be contacted by a registered psychologist within 24 to 48 hours.

READ MORE: Minister of Mental Health and Addictions visits Prince Rupert for first time

K-J Millar | Journalist 
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