The Canadian Mental Health Association and SafeCare BC expand hours, seek volunteers to provide confidential peer support to those working on the front lines
The Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division (CMHA BC) and SafeCare BC have expanded the operating hours of Care to Speak, an online peer support service for health care workers. The change will allow for increased capacity to better accommodate the mental health needs of health care workers working on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They are also encouraging people with experience working in frontline health care to volunteer confidential support one day a week. The extended hours of operation are Monday to Friday 5pm to 9pm and Monday to Wednesday 10am to 2pm. The service is completely confidential and free to access.
Care to Speak, funded by the Government of BC, launched in June 2020 to protect and support the mental wellbeing of health care workers working under unprecedented and stressful conditions. Fifteen months into the pandemic, the need for this support continues. In fact, in a new Statistics Canada crowdsourcing initiative, Impacts of COVID-19 on Health Care Workers: Infection Prevention and Control, 77% of health care workers working in direct contact with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 reported worsening mental health than before the pandemic.
With Care to Speak, continuing care and community health care workers can connect with a trained peer support volunteer worker through instant chat at www.caretospeak.ca or by phone at 1-866-802-7337 (PEER). Care to Speak is staffed by people with experience in frontline health care, long-term care and home care and who bring first-hand experience of working during this difficult time. Volunteers receive full training in active listening and peer support to serve as a support system during this challenging time.
“For over a year, health care workers in BC have been battling the stressors and challenges stemming from COVID-19,” says Jonny Morris, Chief Executive Officer, CMHA BC Division. “They’ve made significant personal sacrifices and juggled challenging work conditions. And while we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel, we’ve still got a way to go. It’s important that we support health care workers in addressing the negative effects of prolonged stress now, before they lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.”
“Peer support is an effective and evidence-based way of providing this support,” adds Morris. “Peer support workers can share knowledge and first-hand experience – something that a counsellor or medical professional may not be able to do. It can be really beneficial to speak with someone who knows exactly what you are going through and who can empathize with what you are feeling.”
In addition to providing empathy and guidance, peer support workers can also refer people accessing the service to other trusted resources which can provide further support, including CMHA BC’s BounceBack® coaching program, employee and family assistance programs, the Mobile Response Team and other resources.
While peer support complements clinical approaches, it is not clinical. Unlike counsellors or therapists, peer support workers do not focus on diagnoses or give advice, but rather help people to discover and build on what’s working for them, even in the midst of distress.
For more information about Care to Speak support go to www.caretospeak.ca. The peer support toll free hotline number is 1-866-802-7337 (PEER). Those interested in volunteering their time as peer support workers can find more information here.
About SafeCare BC
SafeCare BC is a non-profit association working to ensure injury free, safe working conditions for the more than 28,000 continuing care workers in BC. www.safecarebc.ca
About the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
CMHA is Canada’s most established mental health charity and the nation-wide leader and champion for mental health. CMHA helps people access the resources they need to maintain and improve mental health, build resilience, and support recovery from mental illness. Each year in BC alone, CMHA serves more than 100,000 people all across the province. For mental health and addiction information and resources visit www.cmha.bc.ca
External Relations Specialist, CMHA BC Division