Mental Health Week 2023 is recognized, the Public Health Agency of Canada reaffirms its commitment to promoting positive mental health, especially for individuals disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. To this end, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, Élisabeth Brière, announced that the Canadian Red Cross’ Friendly Calls program would receive $8.5 million in funding to expand its reach.
The Friendly Calls program pairs a trained Red Cross team member with an adult who could benefit from greater connection or may have limited social and family links. The Red Cross personnel make a regularly scheduled call to the person with whom they are paired for a social chat and connect them with resources available in their community, if needed. The program aims to enhance social connectedness and well-being, with a particular focus on reaching older adults, Indigenous peoples, frontline workers, parents, caregivers, and anyone who may benefit from increased access to regular emotional support, social interaction, enhanced coping skills, and community connections to other existing support.
Funding announcement builds on the Canadian government’s investments in Budget 2023, which includes a plan to invest nearly $200 billion over ten years to improve healthcare services for Canadians, reduce surgical backlogs, support health workers, and improve integrated mental health and substance use services. The government remains committed to providing all Canadians with the mental health and substance use supports they need, whenever and wherever they need them.
In addition to the funding announcement, Tanya Elliott, Chief of Health at the Canadian Red Cross, expressed her appreciation for the support of the program, stating that “more Canadians will benefit from the emotional support and social interaction that the Friendly Calls program can provide through the power of human connection.”
Overall, this funding announcement represents an important step in promoting positive mental health and supporting vulnerable individuals who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.