Mental health professionals offering free therapy to healthcare workers

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Mental health professionals across Ontario have come together to offer free counselling sessions to frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 crisis. The initiative is called the Ontario COVID-19 Mental Health Network. According to their website, it has become clear to many mental healthcare workers that healthcare professionals across the province lack adequate emotional and mental health support. Many may be feeling isolated and stigmatized for their contact with those who have been infected. “Our goal is to help these workers feel connected, supported, and provide one-on-one pro bono therapy for those who need it,” their website says.

Local psychotherapist, Natalie Carrière, has volunteered her services to support the cause. She has seen a drop in clients because of the COVID-19 crisis. “I have more time,” she says. “I often do pro bono work, and it’s a good way for us to stay engaged and give back.”

Natalie says any healthcare worker in Ontario can be matched up with a psychotherapist, psychologist, doctor, or social worker through the program. All volunteers are vetted to make sure they have the proper accreditation from their respective colleges. Because the sessions are done through teletherapy, healthcare workers can be matched up with a mental health professional from anywhere in the province.

“I am looking after clients in Toronto,” Natalie said. She wants to make sure local healthcare workers know about the program, so that they can get the support they need through this difficult time. She sees many people who are exhibiting signs of depression and anxiety, and says many are worried about how long the crisis might go on, and protecting themselves and their families from getting sick. Lack of resources in the healthcare setting is also causing a lot of stress for those on the front lines of fighting COVID-19. “I think we have a duty to support them,” Natalie says. “We have a vested interest in looking after our healthcare workers.”

All teletherapy sessions are held through an online secure platform. Any healthcare worker who feels that they might need support can go to the Ontario COVID-19 Mental Health Network website and fill out a form to be matched with a mental health professional. Once matched, the healthcare worker will receive five free sessions which can be used as needed. The group is also looking for mental health professionals who are willing to donate their time to support the cause.

Natalie would recommend that any healthcare worker who is feeling stressed and overwhelmed take advantage of the free service, even if they have never been to therapy before. “You absolutely have the right to take care of yourself,” she says. “We’re here to take care of you like you take care of us.”

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