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Coronavirus: UBCO mental health program moves online

Dr. Lutes says the move to an online platform gives the program the ability to help more people. UBCO

A professor of psychology at UBC Okanagan is shifting a telephone-based mental health program to an online platform.

The program was created to offer free mental health services to front-line and essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Each caller would share their COVID-19 story with a registered psychologist and according to Dr. Lesley Lutes, over two-thirds of callers have been classified as ‘experiencing moderate levels of distress.’

“We’ve received calls ranging from general anxiety to acute homicide and domestic abuse issues, suicide risks and front-line workers who took the virus home to family members,” said Lutes.

“What concerns me most is the high number of callers in moderate distress. Without proper access to evidence-based resources, prevention and intervention services along with follow-up, these individuals may experience a further decline in their mental health.”

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Now, Lutes is making the program more accessible.

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“Thanks to private donor funding, university support and partnerships, a virtual walk-in well-being clinic and an email-assisted online therapy program are now being offered,” UBCO staff wrote in a release.

Lutes said the transition to an online platform will make the program available for all British Columbians aged 19 and up.

Read more: Many Canadians dealing with mental health issues due to coronavirus: survey

UBCO’s new online well-being clinic will provide patients with a 30-minute consultation with a doctoral student in clinical psychology which will be supervised by a registered psychologist.

“Virtual support creates instant equity, access and care — and creates a lifeline for those unable to afford psychological services. At the same time, we are training the next generation of registered psychologists,” said Lutes.

“COVID-19 has cost us family members, livelihoods, social interactions and much more. If we truly want to rebound from these catastrophic losses — investing in mental health is how we get there.”

The online program will be available to the public starting Aug. 1.

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You can find more information about the program here.

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