On April 9, in recognition of the importance of maintaining mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, BC Premier John Horgan and Minister for Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy announced $5 million in funding toward expanded and new mental health programs and services The funding includes enhanced virtual services, with a focus on adults, youth and front-line health care workers, to ensure British Columbians can get supports at home.
Islanders can find out more about accessing these mental health services through calling healthlinkbc.ca or by calling 811.
While the provincial response and recognition of current mental health challenges is welcomed, the stress on our mental health services has been an ongoing concern on Salt Spring Island for years. In addition to providing grants to support mental health programs, the Salt Spring Island Foundation has recognized that a strong sense of community belonging is an important factor in supporting mental health and community resiliency. Neighbourhood Small Grants was launched in 2018 to support projects that combat isolation and build a sense of belonging and responsibility. Last fall, the On the Table program brought islanders together to have a conversation about a shared interest or concern.
While the need for physical distancing has temporarily paused Neighbourhood Small Grants, the Foundation is hoping that two recently established funds will assist both in local short-term response and in providing support for mental health solutions in years to come.
Increased isolation and stress are currently taking a toll on the well-being of those who already suffer from mental health issues. The Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness and Relief Fund is accepting applications from charities that assist vulnerable individuals in the community, including those who suffer from mental health challenges.
The Foundation is also looking to a long-term, continued response to supporting mental health needs on Salt Spring. Earlier in 2020, long-time residents Terry and Bev Bolton established the Devon James Bolton Mental Health Fund with the Foundation. Devon died in December 2019, and the Boltons do not want to see families go through the same sadness and stress as they did trying to cope with the tragedy of suicide.
Terry Bolton says, “Those who wage a lifelong battle against bipolar disease are doubly impacted trying to survive the current abnormal stress level. Their life path often ends in suicide, sometimes years later. We can't limit our vision to the immediate crisis. Bev and I know only too well the human cost of such outcomes. That is why we provided seed money to establish a mental health fund in our son's name.”
The Devon James Bolton Mental Health Fund is part of the endowment of the Foundation and created as a memorial to help with mental health issues for many years to come. While the fund will need to grow to provide as much help as possible, this is a positive first step. If you would like to make a donation to the Devon James Bolton Mental Health Fund, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250) 537-8305.
Donations to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund may be made at ssifoundation.ca or by mail to: Salt Spring Island Foundation, Box 244, Ganges PO, Salt Spring Island, BC, V8K 2V9. Please indicate on your cheque that the donation is to be directed to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
The Salt Spring Island Foundation is grateful to the Salt Spring Exchange for its important local news coverage of the COVID-19 crisis and for its invaluable assistance in sharing information about our funds.