The Canadian government has launched PocketWell, a companion app to the Wellness Together Canada (WTC) online platform, to support mental health and combat substance abuse.
The PocketWell app helps users better track their mental health status over time and provides quick access to counselling services free of charge. In order to track users’ mental well-being, the app generates a score-based report through a periodic questionnaire. Users can choose how often these questionnaires appear.
Canada launched Wellness Together Canada (WTC) in April 2020 as a hub for mental health resources during the pandemic. It’s built by a consortium of organizations in digital mental health and substance use support, including Stepped Care Solutions, Kids Help Phone, and Homewood Health.
As of January 10, 2022, the platform has been accessed by over two million people, 30,000 of whom are using it weekly. According to the press release, more than half of WTC users are between 19 and 29 years old.
PocketWell is available for free through the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
Canadians experiencing urgent mental health distress can reach Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566. Residents of Quebec can call 1-866-APPELLE. For emergency assistance, call 911.
A perpetual effort
Lockdowns, burnouts, and stress have caused a decline in mental health among Canadians. In an early 2020 Statistics Canada survey, 24 per cent of the participants reported poor or fair mental health, a huge uptick from the 8 per cent seen in the 2018 Canadian Community Health Survey. Over half of the survey participants reported a decline in mental health since physical distancing began. Similar trends are seen in the U.S. and Europe.
In response, Canada began boosting investments in mental health support programs. In addition to WTC, Ottawa invested C$50 million in 57 distress centres in Canada in June 2021. Many provinces also allocated funds at a provincial level. For example, Ontario promised to invest C$12.4 million in mental health support for frontline workers in November 2021. The federal government is also seeking consultation on a three-digit suicide prevention hotline.