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VICTORIA – If you’re feeling anxious about B.C. reopening, you’re not alone.

We have spent the last 14 months staying apart to help protect our loved ones and communities. During these difficult times, we’ve dealt with the pandemic and the increasingly toxic drug supply. Through these challenges, we’ve felt increased anxiety, stress and depression, and grief and loss.

And now, we are taking slow, careful steps to come back together. Most importantly, more than 78% of British Columbians have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, so we can reconnect more safely.

Although many people are looking forward to resuming activities paused during the pandemic, some may feel anxiety during B.C.’s restart, including people who were living with mental health and addictions challenges before the pandemic began. In fact, a recent survey by Leger shows about half of Canadians are anxious about going back to how things were before. These feelings are normal and understandable given the past 14 months. And just like we were in the pandemic together, we’re also in the recovery and restart together.

That’s why the Province and other community partners are increasing options for mental health and addictions supports. This work started before the pandemic and has expanded quickly during the past year. Together, we will continue to support British Columbians’ mental health and well-being during B.C.’s restart and beyond.

The Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division (CMHA BC) has expanded its BounceBack program – a free skill-building program designed to help people manage low mood, mild to moderate depression, anxiety, stress or worry, and is available over the phone or online. The Province and CMHA BC also partnered with SafeCare BC to launch Care for Caregivers and Care to Speak – free programs for health-care workers. The CMHA BC and Here to Help websites are great places to start to look for resources and support.

Additional support for people experiencing anxiety includes the MindShift CBT app and other resources available through Anxiety Canada, and in the fall will include a health literacy campaign for children and teens to help manage anxiety experienced during the pandemic.

The Province also launched a new Foundry B.C. app for youth ages 12 to 24 and their caregivers. The app provides virtual access to integrated health and wellness services, such as drop-in and scheduled counselling, primary care, peer support and group sessions.

Low- and no-cost community counselling is available virtually and in every part of B.C., with support for many languages. If you or a loved one is experiencing anxiety, or other mental health or substance use challenges, you can find virtual low- and no-cost mental health supports online.

Our working lives were turned upside down during the pandemic. Some people working on the front lines haven’t had a break in more than a year, while others experienced inconsistent hours or job loss. Workplaces can have a significant impact on mental health, and we want to support staff and managers to rebuild organizations that are psychologically safe and healthy. B.C.’s new Workplace Mental Health Hub provides targeted training to people working in long-term and continuing care, tourism and hospitality, and social services. The hub provides information, webinars and workshops to help manage stress and build resilience.

The mental health and substance use effects of the pandemic will be felt in B.C. for months and years to come. We are committed to working together now and through these next critical phases of recovery to make lasting changes to services and supports that protect people today and create brighter futures for all people throughout this province.

by Sheila Malcolmson
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions; and
Jonny Morris, chief executive officer, Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division