Saskatchewan

Sask. online therapy program for mental health, pain management expands after $600K funding increase

The Saskatchewan Health Authority's online therapy program has added a new team after a $600,000 funding increase from the provincial and federal governments.

Program offers courses helping with anxiety, depression and other health issues

Members of the new online therapy team include, from left: Annette Kapell, Kristin Wilkie, Dr. Katherine Owens, Bobbi Gelsinger and Kimberly Bell. (Saskatchewan Health Authority)

Dr. Katherine Owens says an online therapy program's new team will help people throughout Saskatchewan get the treatment they need.

"Most people with symptoms of anxiety and depression don't actually go on to receive the appropriate treatment for that because of access, because of stigma, because they don't know where to find the service or how," said Owens, the team's clinical director.

The University of Regina's online therapy program — which is partnered with the Saskatchewan Health Authority — offers educational material online, along with the support of a therapist or a guide, for people dealing with anxiety, depression and other health issues like pain management.

It recently recieved a combined $600,000 funding increase from the provincial and federal governments.

The money has helped set up a new team of four social workers, along with Owens, which will help the program expand its services.

The new team is based out of Regina, but they will be helping people from all over Saskatchewan.

"I would say probably 80 per cent of the clients we work with are not in Regina," said Owens, noting over 3,600 people have enrolled in the program since it began in 2010.

"It's really neat that we can have a service that's right here in Regina, but we can treat people anywhere in the province," she said.

"There are a lot of folks out there who could really stand to benefit from this."

More access for northern Sask.

Owens said the program can be especially helpful for northern communities.

A number of First Nations leaders called for more mental health services in northern Saskatchewan last year, after two volunteer firefighters took their own lives in Fond-du-Lac over a span of three years.

Owens said online therapy can help fill that gap in services.

"As long as there's some reasonable internet connection — which usually, as far north as you want to go there is internet — then this service would be a really great addition for folks who find it very hard to access a psychologist or a therapist, or even a physician sometimes," she said.

Those who enrol are guided by social workers and therapists while completing their chosen course.

The program runs out of the University of Regina and uses research from the Macquarie University in Australia to develop online therapy catered to people in Saskatchewan.

About the Author

Cory Coleman is a reporter, web writer and associate producer for CBC Saskatchewan. Have a story idea? Email cory.coleman@cbc.ca

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