VICTORIA -- The United Way has teamed up with Bell Canada to distribute 10,000 cellphones to people struggling with mental health challenges across the country.

The United Way in Greater Victoria is working with 40 partner agencies to distribute 850 phones to those in need locally. The initiative is part of the Bell Let’s Talk campaign that works toward removing the stigma of mental health issues, improving access to care and supporting research.

The United Way says the free cell phones are a necessary tool for positive mental health.

“This device enables the opportunity to connect with physicians, with family members with virtual support groups which are out there and so critically important,” said United Way of Greater Victoria CEO Mark Breslauer.

With the COVID-19 pandemic amplifying the mental health crisis in communities across the country, the United Way says communication is essential and working phones are lifeline for people in crisis.

The phones come with SIM cards and two months of free service.