Cambrian College promotes online mental health supports to students

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The Canadian Mental Health Association Sudbury/Manitoulin and the North East LHIN are promoting two, new provincially-funded tools for people in northern Ontario to deal with mental health issues.

BounceBack and Big White Wall are telephone coaching and online support systems, respectively, aimed to help anyone dealing with low mood, stress, and worry.

BounceBack is a referral-based online and telephone program, that helps those aged 15 years and older. The program offers online videos that provide tips like how to manage moods or improve sleep and are offered in multiple languages.

“We started at the age of 15 because then they have the maturity to be able to access these kinds of programs,” says Sue Tassé, Manager of clinical services for the CMHA Sudbury/Manitoulin.

The other program, called Big White Wall, is intended for those 16 and older and offers a peer support model.

Community members can interact with peers with the help of trained guides to monitor conversation. Members can add “bricks” expressing thoughts and feelings. The site is monitored by “wall guides” who are trained professionals who moderate the content.

Sue Tassé is the manager of clinical services at the Canadian Mental Health Association- Sudbury/Manitoulin. She hopes these free services will be beneficial to not only students at Cambrian, but everyone in the community. (Kirthana Sasitharan/CBC)

Tassé says a program like this offers students and community members another option for dealing with mental health struggles as they wait for access to health care providers such as psychotherapists.

“We know that there are wait lists for treatment, we know that there are wait lists for accessing counsellors and those needed intervention services. This is just another tool to put into another tool box.”

BounceBack is a referral based telephone coaching program with workbooks and videos and Big White Wall is a peer support community online. Both services are free and funded by the Ontario government. (Kirthana Sasitharan/CBC)

The programs are coming to northern Ontario after a successful launch in the south of the province. The North East Local Health Integration Network, along with CMHA and the Ontario Telemedicine Network are helping to increase awareness about these programs the region.

Ideal for students and youth

The launch took place at Cambrian College where the CMHA Sudbury/Manitoulin has been working to make sure the services are accessible to students and staff.

Emily Zanini knows first hand what it’s like to deal with the burden of mental health struggles. The health promotion educator for CMHA Sudbury-Manitoulin says she had a hard time with it in school.

When she was a student, Zanini says she was always under the pressure to perform well in school while also being away from home. As the pressure began to build, she says she just assumed she was in a ‘rut.’

“But then that difficult time persisted. My symptoms began to really become more intense,” says Zanini. She recalls not being able to get on a school bus to get to campus because her anxiety was so bad.

Emily Zanini is a health promotion educator with CMHA- Sudbury/Manitoulin. She says she struggled with her mental health when she was a student and could have benefited from programs like BounceBack and Big White Wall. (Kirthana Sasitharan/CBC)

“If I had a service or program [like this], I wouldn’t have gone down that road,” she says. “I wouldn’t have had to suffer. I would have gotten support as needed and in a convenient and timely way, like the BounceBack and Big White Wall programs do.”

Zanini says having multiple resources for a community to access will help to decrease those wait times for services in areas where there are long wait lists.

“My hope with this program being launched is that people will be proactive and feel empowered to take care of their mental health.”