The Bell Let’s Talk campaign reached new heights on January 30th, 2019 in its quest to reduce stigma against mental health, increase access to care, fund mental health research, and fund workplace mental health services. Today, let’s focus on one of their four pillars: access to care, and how this can be augmented with virtual care. Access to mental health services in Canada is especially challenging due to geography, long wait times, and availability of mental health professionals. Introducing a virtual care solution improves patient access to health care providers, so they can focus more on working with patients, and less on appointment logistics.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) reports that Canada is currently failing to meet the needs of mental health care provision and that we need to refocus our strategy, with a particular focus on technology.
Now more than ever, is the time to invest in infrastructure that provides patients with the tools to access mental health care when they want, from wherever they want.
Why virtual care?
Traditional face-to-face mental health services are struggling to meet demand across the country. With over 96% of people under 45 already using the internet every day and 75-85% of those 45-65 years old using digital services every day why not make it easier for everyone to access counselling and the mental health resources as well?
Are we ready?
Yes. The studies show that Canadians are ready for virtual care. In 2017, Ipsos, a leading researcher on Canadian public opinion, found that over 60% of the general public and 58% of practitioners are comfortable with the idea of e-visits and e-consultations.
Moreover, the MHCC is on board with e-mental health solutions. The MHCC’s briefing document on E-Mental Health in Canada states:
“E-Mental health treatments are now recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the first line treatment for mild to moderate depression…common mental health problems and illness (both therapist-assisted and self-directed) have shown them to be more effective than no treatment at all, and equally as effective as face-to-face treatment (Smit & Riper, 2010). Moreover, they can be implemented with high fidelity and personalized for the user, thereby facilitating more efficient communication for both the patient and therapist.”
‘Bell Let’s Talk’ Anywhere
With just internet access and a device, a virtual care platform makes it easier for patients to access mental health care professionals. It also allows for instant connection between a mental health care professional and patient regardless of where they are.
Virtual care provides:
- Accessibility. For individuals who don’t have the means or time to travel or wait in line for their in-person appointments, virtual care provides patients with a convenient way to connect with their healthcare providers by video or phone, when they need it, wherever the need it (no more missed sessions!).
- A safe space. Stigma is a barrier that prevents many people from seeking help. Video or phone appointments means patients can get help from the comfort and privacy of their own home.
- Efficiency. Scheduling and reminder services for patients who frequently forget about their appointments can increase attendance and punctuality, ensuring that practitioners have ample time for all of their patients.
- Security. Secure messaging and file sharing between patients and practitioners provides a convenient way to access resources between appointments fosters a sense of commitment to patients every step of the way. A strong provider-patient relationship is essential for those living with mental health.
- Simplicity. Access to care is a simple click away.
The conversation around mental health awareness and stigma speaks volumes. With over 145,442,699 recorded interactions, another $7.2 million in donations and endorsements including Ellen DeGeneres, Seth Rogen and Alessia Cara just to name a few, Bell’s Let’s Talk Day reach has grown exponentially since the campaign’s inception in 2010.
There is still more work to be done. We need to push forward and continue offering hope and make it easier for those who struggle with mental illness to access help.
Let’s turn our ‘Talk’ into ‘Action’.