Saskatchewan Mental Health Innovation Highlighted in National Podcast
A ground-breaking Saskatchewan mental health initiative is the focus of a national podcast segment airing today.
Internet-delivered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (ICBT) is a program that provides clients with online treatment materials and therapist support. ICBT is being showcased as part of a podcast series on innovations in mental health, sponsored by provincial and territorial Premiers through the Council of the Federation.
"This made-in-Saskatchewan program has served thousands of residents who reached out for help on a variety of issues," Premier Scott Moe said. "I am proud to showcase the exceptional work that is being done in our province to meet a pressing need, and pleased to co-chair this mental health and addictions initiative with Yukon on behalf of Canada's Premiers."ICBT was developed by the Online Therapy Unit (OTU) at the University of Regina and is delivered with clinical support from the Saskatchewan Health Authority as well as therapists from the OTU. ICBT is offered to adults who have broad concerns with depression, anxiety, PTSD, alcohol misuse and or difficulties coping with various chronic medical conditions. A range of health system partners contribute to program development and evaluation. Since its inception in 2015, the Government of Saskatchewan has invested approximately $4.83 million into the ICBT program.
"It is truly inspiring to see how the program uses technology to help people across Saskatchewan, no matter where they live," Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley said. "This program is instrumental in helping us meet residents' needs for mental health support, and it has been especially valuable during the pandemic."
Interest in ICBT has grown steadily over the years. The podcast episode features two people instrumental to the success of the program. Heather Hadjistavropoulos is a professor in the University of Regina's Psychology Department, and Justin Waldrop is a mental health patient partner and a Marketing and Communications Advisor.
Hadjistavropoulos says almost 10,000 clients have sought the program.
"Use of ICBT has been particularly striking since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic," Hadjistavropoulos said. "There has been a 38 per cent increase in enrollment over the past year. About 60 per cent of our clients live outside of major centers. This is a highly convenient way for them to receive care. Our research shows ICBT is not only effective, but highly appreciated by clients."
"The program allows clients to increase awareness and gain tools to improve their mental health," Waldrop said. "People have told me they appreciate being able to work independently at their own pace with support along the way, and having freedom and ownership over their mental health recovery."
More information on ICBT is available at https://onlinetherapyuser.ca/.
Podcast episodes are posted at https://www.canadaspremiers.ca/podcast/ and will be released regularly until June 2021.