Canadian government launches new companion mental health support app

The Canadian government has launched PocketWell, a companion app to the Wellness Canada (WTC) online platform, to support mental health and fight addiction.

The PocketWell app helps users better track their mental health status over time and provides quick, free access to counseling services. 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 are displayed.

An example of a PocketWell report. Screenshot by IT World Canada

Canada launched Wellness Together Canada (WTC) in April 2020 as a mental health resource center during the pandemic. It’s built by a consortium of digital mental health and addictions support organizations, including Stepped Care Solutions, Kids Help Phone and Homewood Health.

As of January 10, 2022, the platform was viewed by more than two million people, 30,000 of whom used it weekly. According to the press release, more than half of WTC users are between the ages of 19 and 29.

PocketWell is available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Canadians experiencing urgent mental distress can contact Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566. Quebec residents can call 1-866-APPELLE. For emergency assistance, dial 911.

A perpetual effort

Lockdowns, burnouts and stress have caused the mental health of Canadians to deteriorate. In a Statistics Canada survey conducted in early 2020, 24% of participants reported having poor or fair mental health, a considerable increase from the 8% observed in the 2018 Canadian Community Health Survey. More half of survey participants reported a deterioration in their mental health since beginning physical distancing. Similar trends are observed in the United States and Europe.

In response, Canada has begun to increase investment in mental health support programs. In addition to the WTC, Ottawa has invested C$50 million in 57 distress centers across Canada in June 2021. Many provinces have also allocated funds at the provincial level. For example, Ontario has pledged 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 hotline for suicide prevention.