Tiffanie Tasane, Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division’s executive director, poses for a photo in the association’s office in Whitehorse on April 30. CMHA, Yukon Division is getting ready to host a program to help provide participants with coping skills to deal with feeling overwhelmed, which Tasane says is especially important now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Program aims to help residents who are feeling overwhelmed

CMHA, Yukon Division takes Living Life to the Full online

As the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division gets set to host its first Living Life to the Full program since measures such as physical distancing have been put in place to deal with COVID-19, officials are hoping it will provide participants with coping skills to deal with feeling overwhelmed.

As CMHA, Yukon Division executive director Tiffanie Tasane said in an April 26 interview, the program is designed to help participants in breaking down what may seem overwhelming into smaller chunks.

While that seems especially important now, it’s a program that has been offered by CMHA divisions across the country for years, including the Yukon and one that has benefitted many, Tasane said.

“It’s an incredibly accessible program,” she said of the eight-session program.

Normally, over the course of eight weeks, a maximum of 12 participants meet in-person weekly with each session covering a different topic — for example, thought patterns like “why does everything always go wrong” and learning tools to change that thought pattern.

Other topics include aiming to help participants understand their responses to outside events, looking at why they may not feel bothered to do anything, building self-esteem, improving temper control, achieving goals and gaining better control over their actions. Each session comes with a workbook for participants.

The work done in each session builds on the skills of the previous session and as such anyone registered is asked to commit to taking part in all eight sessions.

Tasane noted the group setting does seem to help participants know others experience similar thought patterns and they are not alone in their experience.

The next edition of the program, with the meetings now taking place online, is scheduled to begin during Mental Health Week (May 4 to 10) with sessions scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 a.m. from May 5 to May 28.

This will mark the first time CMHA, Yukon Division is offering the free program virtually, a move made in light of COVID-19 and physical distancing measures in place.

A maximum of 15 participants will be registered, with about half the spots already filled. Many have indicated an interest in the program as well, but are unable to attend at the scheduled time. Tasane said it’s expected a future session will be scheduled for the evenings.

CMHA, Yukon Division has also started offering other programming remotely.

Counselling services are now offered through a virtual connection or the phone lines.

“You do what you have to do,” Tasane said, acknowledging there are “real challenges” in counselling by phone or online.

“You can’t read body language the same way,” she said.

At the same time, it’s an important time for counselling services to be available in some form.

She noted counselling staff are hearing of exacerbated issues around depression, anxiety, grief and loss at this time.

There were few calls into the CMHA, Yukon Division drop-in counselling line at the beginning of the month, but the volume of calls has increased substantially recently as more look to access support while the COVID-19 measures continue, she said.

The drop-in counselling line (668-6429) provides a one-time counselling session. A limited number of phone sessions are available through the week and when the phone line is called, if available, a session is scheduled within 48 hours. The counsellor then calls at the appointment time for the session. The service is free and available to anyone over 13.

In cases where appointments aren’t available, Tasane said callers are referred to the territory’s Mental Wellness and Substance Use Services office which provides rapid access counselling sessions. Tisane specified there does not have to be a substance use issue to seek counselling through Mental Wellness and Substance Use Services.

The CMHA, Yukon Division is also working on relaunching the territory’s 24-hour distress and crisis line, which was previously operated by Many Rivers Counselling but shut down when Many Rivers closed.

The COVID situation “lit the fire” under the CMHA to have the line up and running as soon as possible, Tasane said.

Work is currently underway to recruit the approximately 40 volunteers for the crisis line service.

A listening ear, clear communication, ability to work with a team and other such skills will be important to have in volunteers, who will be trained for their work, Tisane said.

While it’s anticipated the crisis line will eventually be available 24 hours, Tasane said it will likely start with fewer hours and expand at a later date after things are up and running.

It’s unknown exactly when the line will be live and what the hours will be, though Tasane noted those details will be made available in the coming weeks.

Those interested in volunteering can email distressline@yukon.cmha.ca

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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Some of the literature offered at the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division’s office in Whitehorse on April 30. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

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