VICTORIA -- B.C. Premier John Horgan and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy announced a $5-million supplement to expand virtual mental health supports across the province during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding will go towards expanding virtual community programs so that residents can contact mental health workers from inside their home, whether in remote or urban areas of B.C.

The province is also creating an online support hub for frontline health-care workers. According to Darcy, 200 psychologists have volunteered to help health-care workers throughout the province.

“We need to make sure we take care of the healthcare heroes that are on the frontlines keeping us safe,” said Darcy.

Meanwhile, the mental health and addictions minister said that Bounce Back, a free online skill-building program for people suffering from depression and anxiety, has been made available to all residents without the need of a doctor’s referral.

Darcy also announced that funding would be directed to Foundry BC, a virtual youth clinic for British Columbians aged 12 to 24.

Meanwhile, the province will also be investing in peer support for immigrants and refugees, and will be working with Indigenous partners to improve mental health opportunities for local First Nations.

“Now more than ever we have to take care of ourselves, and we have to take care of each other,” said Darcy.

“Reach out to your friends and family. Check in on your neighbour or your elderly relative. Something as simple as a phone call or a note can have a hugely positive impact,” she said.

For those who may not have access to the internet or online technology, like some seniors, Darcy recommends that relatives and friends reach out to their older family members to offer support.

The mental health and addictions minister noted that B.C.’s support line for seniors, 2-1-1, is also accessible simply by telephone. 

“Please remember you are not alone and please remember that physical distancing does not have to mean social isolation.”