Experts who say COVID-19 has had a detrimental effect on the mental health of some South Surrey and White Rock residents have been offering their services, free of charge, for nearly a year.
Last March, a group of local experts developed a one-stop-shop for online resources. The website, (together-sswr.com) was devised by a group of approximately eight private psychologists and a clinical counsellor who got together to “discuss what we could contribute to help support the community.” The organization contacted Peace Arch News last week to raise awareness about the services they offer.
And while the website continues to grow in viewership month-over-month, the free counselling support is not being accessed in the way they had anticipated, said registered clinical counsellor Melanie Huck.
“Which is interesting, because we know that there is a massive need.”
Huck said research highlights the importance of social connection and having meaningful relationships as a key buffering factor in a person’s ability to have good mental health.
For some, the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified preexisting mental health conditions, such as addiction, depression, or anxiety, she added.
“And for all of us who don’t have those conditions, the social disconnection and isolation has been, I would say, challenging for the majority of people. So being able to have resources and have services at your fingertips where you can get support from family, friends, or important community resources like ours is extremely necessary and important for all of us.”
Among other items, the website offers a database of volunteer mental health professionals who can provide short-term, COVID-19-related counselling support.
“If someone is having a great amount of difficulty because of COVID-19, whether it’s social isolation or job loss, financial issues, that kind of thing. We would be a good resource for them to get short-term support,” Huck said.
The website also offers updated local COVID-19 resource information.
“That would be resources having to do with mental health programs on the Peninsula, but also more generally, resources on wellness and well-being.”
Another component of the website is a resource phone line (604-531-0361). The phone number is available to people who don’t have access to the internet or are more comfortable speaking to someone rather than emailing a counsellor.
The role of a listener
While Together South Surrey White Rock offers professional support to people in need, Huck offered advice on how to respond if a friend or family member opens up about their mental health challenges.
“Being a good listener, having empathy, and having compassion is very powerful,” Huck said. “I think that helping a person who’s struggling feel understood and seen is remarkably helpful.”
Huck said people don’t need to complicate the role of a listener.
“I think we all need support from time-to-time. So just being able to hold space for someone and listen, and be understanding and compassionate, is really what their role is about.”