June 29, 2020 | News

The Canadian Mental Health Association and SafeCare BC have partnered to provide a new peer support and referral service

VANCOUVER, BC – (June 29, 2020): The Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division (CMHA BC), SafeCare BC and the Province of BC today launched an online peer support service, Care to Speak, designed to protect and support the mental well-being of health care workers impacted by the personal and professional demands of working on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tailored supports were urgently needed as many of the other mental health resources that have become available to support people may not suit the unique circumstances of continuing care and community health care workers who face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 than the general population.

Continuing care and community health care workers seeking person-to-person support can now connect with a trained peer support via instant chat or by telephone at 1-866-802-7337 (PEER).

Care to Speak is run by people with experience in long-term care, home care and other front-line health care roles. They have been trained in active listening and peer support and bring first-hand experiences of working during this difficult time. The service operates Monday-to-Friday between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. The service is confidential and free to access.

“Health care workers have been on the front lines since the COVID-19 pandemic began months ago. They continue to bravely and selflessly make the health of British Columbians a priority – sometimes at the expense of their own personal and emotional well-being,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “I’m so pleased about the launch of Care to Speak. I know it will help health care workers, including those in the continuing care sector, to get the mental health supports they need and deserve as we slowly move towards a new normal.”

“Working under acutely stressful circumstances for prolonged periods of time can significantly impact our mental health. For health care workers, this unprecedented situation has raised worries about not only the health and safety of those in their care, but also that of their loved ones and themselves. This can feel isolating and stigma often prevents people from seeking the help they need. But it can be really beneficial to speak with someone else who has experienced what you are going through and who can empathize with what you are feeling,” says Jonny Morris, Chief Executive Officer, CMHA BC Division.

“Health care workers—particularly those in the continuing care sector—have been working in a challenging and stressful environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s critically important that we support not only their physical safety, but also their psychological safety,” says Jen Lyle, Chief Executive Officer, SafeCare BC. “Having a peer available for health care workers to talk to will be a huge boost to their mental wellness and helps to ensure healthcare workers are in the best position to take care of us.”

”Workers in long-term care are under pressure at the best of times, and more so during this pandemic,” says Jennifer Whiteside, Secretary-Business Manager of the Hospital Employees’ Union. “Providing good care to residents in this high-stress environment that is full of risk can take its toll on the mental health of front-line workers. Peer support services like Care to Speak are a welcome resource for those on the front line.”

In addition to providing empathy and guidance, peer support workers can also refer people accessing the service to other trusted resources which can provide further support, including CMHA BC’s BounceBack® coaching program, employee and family assistance programs, and the Mobile Response Team.

While peer support complements clinical approaches, it is not clinical. Unlike counsellors or therapists, peer support workers do not focus on diagnoses or give advice but rather help people to discover and build on what’s working for them, even in the midst of distress.

The peer support chat-based and telephone service can be accessed through CMHA BC and SafeCare BC’s Care for Caregivers website, an information hub of mental health information and resources for health care workers which was launched in April.

Care for Caregivers provides reputable and evidence–based mental health resources designed to support workplace mental health and resilience for workers responding to stressful environments.

Care for Caregivers was developed thanks to funding from the Government of BC, as part of its $5 million investment to expand existing mental health programs and services, and launch new services to support the mental health of British Columbians during the COVID-19 response and beyond.

For more information about Care to Speak, virtual peer support:

The peer support toll-free hotline number is 1-866-802-7337 (PEER).

For more information about Care for Caregivers:


About SafeCare BC SafeCare BC is a non-profit association working to ensure injury-free, safe working conditions for the more than 28,000 continuing care workers in BC.

About the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) CMHA is Canada’s most established mental health charity and the nation-wide leader and champion for mental health. CMHA helps people access the resources they need to maintain and improve mental health, build resilience, and support recovery from mental illness. Each year in BC alone, CMHA serves more than 100,000 people all across the province. For mental health and addiction information and resources visit