Albertans struggling with COVID-19 related stress, anxiety and depression now have help through Text4Hope, a free service providing three months of daily Cognitive Behavioural Therapy-based text messages written by mental health therapists.
An Alberta-based innovation, Text4Hope is a new Alberta Health Services program offering an evidence-based tool that helps people identify and adjust the negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours a pandemic might be expected to provoke.
The initiative is being led by Alberta psychiatrist and Research Director, Dr. Vincent Agyapong, PhD. whose similar tool used during the Ft. McMurray fires demonstrated up to 25% reductions in user stress, anxiety and depression.
Text4Hope works with any cellphone. Text “COVID19HOPE” to 393939 to subscribe.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is an evidence-based psychotherapy that helps people identify and purposely shift negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours into those that are healthy and adaptive . With daily support, advice and suggestions people build the healthy coping skills that underpin mental health and resilience.
Based on research, Dr. Agyapong anticipates 10% of Albertans will need mental health support during the crisis. “The mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be underestimated and will strain Alberta’s health system,” says Dr. Agyapong. “With widespread stress, anxiety and depression technological interventions like Text4Hope bring relief, support and therapeutic skill development to thousands of people. A proven, clinical and cost effective service like Text4Hope is what Albertans need right now.”
Mark Korthuis, President & CEO of the Mental Health Foundation, adds that Albertans live healthier lives if they have the appropriate support for their mental health. “It’s in this spirit that we are funding Text4Hope so Albertans have immediate mental health support during this time,” he says. The Foundation has committed up to $500K in support of the service.
The program provides one-way communication and does not replace other mental health therapies and supports. It is a helpful option addressing the needs of people in self-isolation who can’t access face-to-face services, as well as those in remote locations.
Designed as both a service and a research project, participants can voluntarily complete baseline, mid-term and final surveys to evaluate the impact.
Text4Hope costs about $4 per person for three months of messaging. While the Mental Health Foundation, University Hospital Foundation, Calgary Health Trust, Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, and Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation have all partnered with Alberta Health Services to commit up to $2 million to make the service accessible to all Albertans, donations helping assure full reach to all Albertans are welcomed. Those who want to cover their costs and those of others in the community should visit www.mentalhealthfoundation.ca/supporttext4hope.
All mental health support lines remain open. For details on what is available in your health region, visit this AHS resource.
Mental Health Foundation|@MentalHealthAB
The Mental Health Foundation raises funds and mobilizes resources to improve outcomes within Alberta’s addiction and mental health care system. Our vision is to ensure an accessible, easy-to-navigate and fully integrated addiction and mental health care system in Alberta.
Dr. Vincent Agyapong
Dr. Agyapong is Clinical Professor & Director of Residents Quality Improvement Projects, and Research Director, Mood and Anxiety and Clinical Trials Programs in the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Alberta. He is also Edmonton Zone Clinical Section Chief, Community Mental Health and Psychiatrist Lead, Edmonton Zone Access, Consultation and Urgent Services with Addiction & Mental Health, at Alberta Health Services.
Mental Health Foundation