Mental Health Supports on their way for Front Line Workers

Premier John Horgan and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy announced today that the province is adding $5 million to expand existing mental health programs and launch new services to support front-line workers who have experienced adverse mental health during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Access to counselling should not depend on the size of your bank account,” said Minister Darcy. The new measures will ensure that all British Columbians will be able to receive support.

We have been hearing from many UFCW 1518 members who are struggling with anxiety, uncertainty, and added stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, physical distancing measures are making it more difficult for people to access their normal support networks.

“We are thrilled with today’s announcement because it means that front line workers will have access to the help they deserve,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “Our members have been heroes in the COVID-19 crisis, but it hasn’t been easy on them. We are here to help them in whatever way we can, now they will have additional community support to maintain their mental health.”

Today’s announcement means that front line workers will have access to a variety of mental health supports at low to no cost. The barriers to critical mental health interventions are also being lowered so that all front line workers are able to protect their mental health.

The new program features self-serve options for workers on the front lines, including grocery and pharmacy workers, industrial food processors, and home care workers. Some of the programs can be accessed immediately and some will be available by the end of April. Here are some key highlights:

  •  A self-assessment tool that people can use to check their mental health symptoms and plan a course of action to improve their mental health.
  • Peer-to-peer virtual mentoring and goal-oriented support. This peer-to-peer support will also assist people with navigating the mental health system and help them to access further supports.
  • Virtual counseling services for individuals or groups at low or no cost.
  • Access to the Canadian Mental Health Association’s BounceBack program. BounceBack provides free access to online, video and phone-based coaching and skills-building. People who are experiencing low mood, mild to moderate depression, anxiety, stress, or worry, can receive care. Normally, people need a doctor’s note to access BounceBack, but this requirement has been waived for front line workers during COVID-19.
  • Free access to Living Life to the Full, peer support and practical skills courses for coping with stress, problem solving and boosting mood. The 8-week course is led by a trained facilitator.

Home care support workers will have additional supports available to them, including:

  • An online hub and virtual peer support network for front line healthcare workers. There will be a phone and text-based peer support service, staffed by former long-term care and home support workers. It provides confidential emotional support to current workers. Peers can also help guide callers to other services and supports if needed.
  • A Mobile Response Team (MRT) that will support the mental well-being and psychological safety of front line health care workers who are experiencing exponential distress and mental health concerns in response to COVID-19. To access, call or email the Provincial Health Services Authority at 1-888-686-3022  Email: This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Free online mental health first aid through the BC Psychological Association
  • Access to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Online Resource Hub with information to improve psychological and social supports. It provides strategies to help frontline workers take care of their mental health.

You can access the new program on the BC government website. You can also read more about how to protect your mental health during COVID-19 here.

If you are struggling, know that you are not alone. Your union is here to support you, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please reach out to the 310 Mental Health Emergency Support Line at 1-800-784-2433 or 310-6789 if you are in crisis.