Free psychotherapy program now available to York Region adults
'What’s wonderful about this program is it’s fast access and offers a range of therapeutic interventions that people can access virtually and over the phone,' says CEO of Canadian Mental Health Association, York Region and South Simcoe
Oct. 19, 2023
In an effort to provide more mental health support to Ontarians across the province, the Ontario Structured Psychotherapy (OSP) program has been expanded.
Adults in Ontario who have depression, anxiety and anxiety-related concerns can now connect to free cognitive behavioural therapy and other related services for the first time.
“What’s wonderful about this program is it’s fast access and offers a range of therapeutic interventions that people can access virtually and over the phone,” said Rebecca Shields, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association, York Region and South Simcoe. “And as we roll this out, we’re working toward more and more in-person resources.”
Shields said the program is evidence based and uses cognitive behaviour therapy to address issues such as OCD, PTSD, stress, and anxiety.
“This is critical for population health,” she said. “When we understand that every single one of us has mental health. All of us can have periods of time where we have great mental health and we can all have periods of time where we may face a lot of stress or depression.”
Having a free resource that’s easily accessible will provide Ontarians with the opportunity to reach out for support that they may not have been able to get in the past, said Shields.
“This is what we need as part of our health-care system,” she said. “Our mental health is health. If you have a cold or a cough you can go to your doctor, this is the same thing.”
Often there can be roadblocks for those seeking mental health resources, said Shields, this program is aiming to remove those barriers.
“It’s critical to understand that mental health is health and should be part of a publicly funded health-care system where we’re treated for all of the conditions,” she said. “Having access is important for people to manage their whole well-being because we know depression and anxiety are the most common related health conditions in Ontario.”
Once stigmatized, mental health has been prioritized in recent years, especially coming out of the pandemic, said Shields, with initiatives such as Bell Let’s Talk and national campaigns.
“It’s helped more people understand that mental health is health and we all deserve treatment and support for our mental illness the way we do our physical health," she said. “Mental health is sickness not weakness.”
This is a big step toward supporting those who struggle, while also normalizing asking for help when struggling with mental health, Shield said.
“You’d never want anyone to be in pain with a twisted knee, you don’t want them to be in pain with mental health,” she said. “This is free and available virtually in multiple languages, we’re really trying to make this accessible.”
Since the launch of four locations in 2017, Ontario has expanded the OSP program to full provincial coverage with more than 100 locations across Ontario delivered through nine regional networks of mental health providers that include local hospitals, community organizations and health-care providers at different service delivery site locations.
“I look forward to more investments so we can expand access to services,” said Shields. “The mental health system is overrun right now and we need more resources to support people who have all kinds of mental health or addiction or substance use needs.”
More than 66,000 Ontarians have enrolled in the OSP program and all regional networks and Central Ontario’s regional network is led by CarePoint Health and the Canadian Mental Health Association -- York and South Simcoe.
The OSP program is available for free to Ontarians 18 and older with both self-led or therapist-led mental health services.