Mental Health Support | Federal closure of Espace Mieux-Être denounced

Mental health and addiction experts are criticizing the federal government’s decision to shut down an online service that for the past four years allowed people to find free professional advice and support.


Health Canada announced in February that it would stop funding the Espace Mieux-Être Canada website and the Wellness application as of April 3.

Despite a public call from a coalition of 18 mental health and addiction organizations for the government to reconsider its decision, the service ends at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday.

“We know that tens and thousands, if not millions, of Canadians need mental health and addiction support. And it’s only gotten worse because of the pandemic,” said Sarah Kennell, national director of public policy for the Canadian Mental Health Association – which is one of the group’s members – in an interview.

Economic insecurity and anxiety over issues such as climate change are also drivers of mental distress and people need free access to help more than ever, Ms.me Kennell.

“Cost is one of the biggest barriers people cite when explaining why they can’t get the care they need,” she noted.

Counseling, psychotherapy and addiction treatment are typically private, meaning people have to pay out of pocket or have private insurance, which often only covers a limited amount of care, she said.

“That’s where Espace Mieux-Être really filled the void. It’s free. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and for anyone in the country who is looking for help,” said Mr.me Kennell.

Doubts about taking over

Health Canada launched the program on April 15, 2020 in response to the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of the population. The website and app connected people with professionals, social workers and psychologists for virtual care, chat sessions and phone calls. The service also provided information and resources on mental health and substance use.

Several mental health agencies, including Kids Help Phone, Homewood Health and Stepped Care Solutions, have been contracted by the government through Wellness Together Canada to provide this advice and support.

But now that the “urgent part” of the pandemic is over, it is time for this “extraordinary” measure to end and for the provinces and territories to take over, according to the office of Ya’ara Saks, Minister of Mental Health and Dependencies.

“Provinces and territories are best positioned to meet the mental health and addiction needs of their communities by integrating these services throughout their health care system,” the firm said in a press release, emphasizing that the mental health is one of the “shared priorities” of recent bilateral funding agreements.

But there is “no evidence” that provinces and territories are taking steps to replace the free and accessible services provided by the program, argued Anthony Esposti, CEO of CAPSA, an organization that fights stigma related to with substance use disorders, offers professional support and is another member of the group.

“Often, funds dedicated to mental health and addiction (that) are transferred to the provinces are absorbed by the physical health system,” noted Mr. Esposti.

CAPSA was able to increase its online group support sessions from two to 12 per week thanks to funding from Wellness Space Canada, he argued.

“I’ve received many letters from people who use the service (saying) that, you know, removing this service is beyond unfortunate. It’s dangerous,” Mr. Esposti said.

Since February, when CAPSA learned that the Wellness Together Canada program was ending, the organization has worked to find other sources of funding. Even if they will not be able to maintain 12 sessions per week, they will be able to manage seven, said the CEO.

In addition to the financial aspect, Wellness Together Canada has provided a “one-stop shop” where people needing mental health support can turn, no matter where they live in Canada, added Mr. Esposti.

It’s “very valuable to people” in distress who are trying to navigate what is otherwise “a very confusing and fractured system,” he said.

More than four million people have used Espace Mieux-Être since its launch, according to information published on the site.

The loss of the site is “deeply concerning,” NDP MP Gord Johns said Wednesday in an email to The Canadian Press.

“Canadians need more mental health support, not less, and the Liberals need to tell people what accessible and free mental health supports will replace Wellbeing and Espace Mieux-Être,” said Ms. Johns, NDP critic for mental health and harm reduction.

Anyone who visits the Wellness Space Canada webpage after its closure “will find links to key mental health resources that have been accessed through the Wellness Space portal, such as Kids Help Phone, which will continue to be available,” indicates the press release from the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

“Canadians will be able to access other key information on mental health resources, supports and services, such as those available in their province or territory of residence, by visiting www.canada.ca/mental-health », Also indicates the press release.

But this site requires users to go through several steps in their search – an obstacle that Mme Kennell considers it unacceptable.

“Frankly, I think it’s shameful that we’re directing people to canada.ca/mental health. I think it’s terribly inadequate, she insisted. Telling them to go to a government website where they then have to dig down three or four levels to maybe find something that might be free, I think that’s just a demonstration that we’re not doing enough to respond needs to. We are truly failing Canadians. »

Where to get help

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call or text 988. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Kids Help Phone continues to provide free support and resources 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1-800-668-6868. Children and youth can text 686 868 and adults can text 741 741.

The Hope for Wellness Helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for First Nations, Inuit and Métis people at 1855 242-3310 or via online chat at www. hopeforwellbeing.ca.

The Canadian Mental Health Association offers a free coaching program called Bounce Back to help youth and adults aged 15 and older manage low mood, mild to moderate depression, anxiety, stress or depression. ‘worry. Visit reunitesonentrainqc.ca.

Other places to get help are listed at www.canada.ca/mental-health.

The Canadian Press’s health coverage is supported by a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. The Canadian Press is solely responsible for this content.


reference: www.lapresse.ca

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