The power of virtual care

By Sachin Aggarwal, Think Research CEO

I’m fine, thanks. 

Those three simple words are the jumping off point for the Canadian Mental Health Association’s campaign for Mental Health Week in our country this year. It’s a barrier we all put up sometimes — and, in the CMHA’s words, it’s a barrier that can prevent us from really connecting when we all need to, more than ever.

I love that they’ve focused on the idea of connection because it’s been a huge focus of ours, too.

Over the past six weeks, we’ve worked around the clock to help Canadian mental health professionals move their practices from in-person to virtual visits. 

The need is real. A recent Nanos survey shows that consistent or constant stress has affected more than twice as many Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic as before it. Across our platform, we’ve seen a 10x increase in the number of virtual visits.

We are now collaborating with the Ontario Psychological Association, the Ontario Association of Social Workers, the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, the Ontario Association of Mental Health Professionals and the Ontario Society of Registered Psychotherapists. Combined, they represent several thousand members whose care and services are a key part of the broader pandemic response in our communities.

They are the experts and, in their own words, they’ve shared why access to virtual mental health care is so crucial right now.

“Now, weeks into mandated physical distancing, COVID-19 remains a serious threat to our community. Extended ‘stay home, stay safe’ orders are necessary yet also create a sense of isolation, stress and underlying anxiety for many,” says Suzanne Dennison, a registered psychotherapist and president of the OAMHP. “In these unprecedented times, the need for access to mental health supports is greater than ever.”

“People seeking help or currently in the care of a social worker need continued access to that support in order to maintain their well-being during these difficult times, strengthen coping skills, and find effective solutions,” says Dr. Deepy Sur, CEO of OASW.

“While COVID-19’s immediate health concerns are significant, mental health issues may prove to be the long-term sleeper complication for Canadians,” says Dr. Sylvain Roy, a neuropsychologist, patient advocate, and past-president of the OPA.

As mental health week draws to a close, we recognize that the need will continue. When it comes to connecting, nothing can replace the human, in-person, analog way of doing things. But as we maintain physical distancing to keep slowing down the spread of this disease, virtual care can continue to play an important role. 

That’s why we won’t be satisfied with our status quo and we’re continuing to work with our partners and the people they care for to get their feedback and keep making our service better. 

Thank you to the mental health professionals across Canada for everything you do.