Health Foundation donates $100,000 to crisis lines across BC

Tuesday, Nov 17, 2020

New survey reveals that British Columbians are feeling anxious and stressed—even more so since COVID-19 hit—yet the majority of us don’t engage professional help.

A survey commissioned by Pacific Blue Cross reveals that our mental health is deteriorating during COVID-19, but many British Columbians don’t know where to find supports—even in their own communities. 

Two thirds of British Columbians (37%) said they expect their mental health will decline if the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen in the fall and winter. And only a small proportion of individuals in need of support utilize mental health services with just 15% of us connecting with counselling services.

As BC is now experiencing its second phase of the pandemic, the data paints a clear and worrying picture and signifies an imminent threat of a ‘twindemic’- both a COVID-19 and mental health crisis.

Support for front line mental health care

In response, the Pacific Blue Cross Health Foundation has made a $100,000 donation to crisis lines across BC—in both urban and rural communities—in an attempt to bolster already taxed services and address the mental health support needs in our province.

Crisis lines provide an essential frontline service to British Columbians at every day of the year at any hour, to support people experiencing a mental health crisis. As a safe and anonymous way of accessing support, they also help people avoid seeking acute care because of the compassionate services they offer.

Since the start of the pandemic, BC crisis lines have experienced an unprecedented 27% increase in their call volume, with many British Columbians seeking support for anxiety (47% increase), depression (40% increase) or loneliness or social isolation (24% increase) compared to the same period last year. In addition, they report a 45% increase in follow-ups arranged to check on the safety of service users.

While our research noted that two thirds of British Columbians are aware of crisis lines, even with the uptick in call volume, many are still not seeking out the care they need.

Mental health stigma is real and pervasive

Stigma and marginalization of those with mental health conditions continues to pervade BC society, with one third of British Columbians experiencing or witnessing the unfair treatment or marginalization of someone with a mental illness.

Four in 10 believe that British Columbians are biased towards people with mental health conditions and treat them unfairly, with 1 in 3 believing mental health conditions are a drain on the healthcare system. This number is even higher in our First Nations communities, with more than 1 in 2 reporting they have witnessed stigma or marginalization of a person with a mental health condition.

While accessibility and usage are top concerns, societal perception is also a significant contributing factor in whether an individual seeks support or not.

We call on BC business leaders to make employee mental health a top priority

International healthcare leaders have warned of an impending global mental health crisis, in part, due to COVID-19. BC is not immune from this, and urgent action is needed to protect our mental health as the province continues to respond to the pandemic.

We encourage business and organizational leaders across the province to focus on the mental health of their employees by:

  • fostering a culture of open and transparent dialogue about mental health within your organizations to combat stigma and reduce fear,
  • demonstrating your commitment to employee mental health by having a strategy and the necessary resources in place—and ensure your benefits plan aligns, and.
  • doing what you can to facilitate access to mental health supports in your organization and in your communities.

Pacific Blue Cross offers many mental health supports through our benefits plans, having recently added coverage for virtual care through partner EQ Care, three online cognitive behavioural therapy programs, and registered counsellors for our individual plan members.