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Text4Hope provides mental health boosts amid isolation practices

By Nikayla Goddard, July 21 2020—

“Make sure each day involves some pleasure (example: take a bath, enjoy food, watch your favorite TV show, talk with a friend)” along with a resource link is one of the texts sent from Text4Hope, an Alberta Health Services mental health program that aims to provide support and build coping skills during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the official website, Text4Hope is a free service that provides three months of “Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)-based text messages” created by local mental health therapists, psychologist Dr. Marianne Hrabok, and psychiatrist Dr. Vincent Agyapong. The program is an evidence-based tool that provides daily text messages to those who sign up at no cost. 

The messages consist of a piece of advice or support to aid in coping with isolation, and often a link for further resources, educational readings or studies that support the provided advice. Topics thus far have included: setting goals, education about panic and anxiety, encouraging exercise, activities and social connection, self-care, advocating for assertiveness, media diets, regulating emotions, and more. The program cites that these topics aid in helping people “identify and adjust the negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours a pandemic might be expected to provoke.”

Dr. Agyapong developed a similar tool used during the Fort McMurray fires, which demonstrated up to 25 per cent reductions in user stress, anxiety and depression. Based on research, Agyapong anticipates 10 per cent of Albertans need mental health support during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be underestimated and will strain Alberta’s health system,” Agyapong in the launch announcement. “With widespread stress, anxiety and depression technological interventions like Text4Hope bring relief, support and therapeutic skill development to thousands of people. A proven, clinical and cost effective service like Text4Hope is what Albertans need right now.”

This Alberta Health Services program is provided by the Edmonton Community Foundation, Calgary Foundation, Edmonton Civic Employees Fund, Calgary Health Trust, the University Hospital Foundation, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation and the Alberta Cancer Foundation with support from the University of Alberta. 

Below are a few of the text messages that have been sent out: 

“Create a ‘safe place’ in your mind. Imagine how it looks, feels, sounds, and smells. Go there when you need to. Only you know the way.” 

“Visualize yourself coping with current problems. See yourself facing these challenges. You have overcome challenges before.”

“Put yourself on a media diet. It’s important to stay informed, but only check the news and social media intermittently, rather than continuously.” 

“Notice when you’re feeling sad, anry, lost or overwhelmed about life changes. Don’t push the feelings away – acknowledge these feelings and let yourself grieve.”

Text COVID19HOPE to 393939 to subscribe. 

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