Coping with arthritis symptoms and the uncertainty of the condition can take a toll on a person’s mental health.  Research indicates that people with arthritis are at an increased risk of anxiety and depression than the general population.  The good news is that there are a number of resources available to help you manage your mental health and well-being.  In addition to traditional therapeutic approaches, digital tools exist to enable you to take charge of your mental health from the comfort of your home.  It’s important to ensure that digital resources are from a reputable source, however.  Before trying a new resource, do some research to make sure it is evidence-based and that a mental healthcare professional or reliable organization has been involved in its development.  

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please contact Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566, a crisis line in your region, or dial 9-1-1 in the case of an emergency. 

  1. Tele-mental health: Virtual visits by phone, text, video chat, or email with mental health service providers.  While in some regions, tele-mental health services may be available for free with a referral from your family physician, these are generally not covered by public health insurance.   However, some service providers such as psychologists and social workers may be covered by some benefits plans.  For more information about services in your area, including publicly-funded and free services, visit ementalhealth.ca.

  2. Apps: There are an increasing number of software applications (apps) available for mobile phones or on the web that can help you manage your mental health.  Many of these are available for free or at a low cost.  These include general mental health apps, apps to address specific conditions such as anxiety or depression, as well as meditation and mindfulness apps.  However, it’s important to research an app before using it, because as the American Psychological Association warns, “an app can offer incorrect or misleading information to patients.”  They’ve developed an app evaluation model, which recommends: (i) gathering background information about the app; (ii) determining how user privacy and security are maintained; (iii) determine if the app is based on reliable research.  To learn more about available apps, search for “mental health” in Google Play or the Apple App Store.    

  3. Guided online programs: Some hospitals, universities and community organizations offer structured, multi-week cognitive behavioural therapy programs to help you build the skills, knowledge and practices to better self-manage your mental health.  For example, the Canadian Mental Health Association offers the Living Life to the Full program in 10 provinces and 1 territory free of charge or for a low cost.  Strongest Families offers a Canada-wide program called I CAN Conquer Anxiety and Nervousness program. The Online Therapy Unit based out of the University of Regina offers people living in Saskatchewan the opportunity to sign up for a free 5-week course on Chronic Health Conditions Including Chronic Pain.  In British Columbia, Ontario and Manitoba, the Canadian Mental Health Association is offering a free online program called Bounceback for people living with anxiety (a doctor’s referral is required). Search the internet to find out more about programs available in your area.    

  4. Self-guided programs: If you prefer to learn at your own pace on your own time, self-guided programs and workbooks such as Positive Coping with Health Conditions, The Anti-Depressant Skills Workbook and Dealing with Depression can be helpful. You can also search online for resources and self-guided programs specific to the topics you would like to address.

  5. Arthritis Society’s Mental Health & Well-Being Guide: This online guide offers insight into aspects of mental health and its relationship to your physical health. It will provide you with some strategies and suggestions for maximizing your well-being and will also help you recognize when you need to bring in expert help.  Topics include About Mental Health, Mental Health and Arthritis, Dealing with Stress, Taking Care of Your Mental Health, and When You Need Support.

  6. Employee Assistance Programs:  An employee assistance program (EAP) is offered by some employers as a confidential, short-term counselling service for employees to help deal with life challenges. EAPs can offer help and suggestions for resolving difficulties in a person’s life, even if the source of the issue is not related to the workplace. The assistance provided by EAPs could include phone or internet-based access to mental health professionals, and referrals to other agencies or professionals as needed.

  7. Meditation and Mindfulness programs: Mindfulness is the practice of focusing awareness on what is happening in the present (including our thoughts and behaviours) in a non-judgmental way. This may sound simple, but in fact, most people find it challenging. Digital resources can help you with the practice of mindfulness meditation, guiding you to pay attention to your body and your sensory experiences, thoughts and emotions. These tools include YouTube videos and audio files that offer guided meditation experiences, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction YouTube series, Reflections on the Cultivation of Mindfulness video, and Guided Meditations.

  8. Arthritis Society worksheets: Our Resources page is filled with great worksheets and tools to help you manage your arthritis symptoms, including mental health challenges. Check out the Emotional Event worksheet and Thinking Realistically resource to guide you through your response to depressive and anxious thoughts. You can also use the Food and Mood Tracker to observe how food impacts your mental health day-to-day.

COVID-19 has added additional stresses to Canadians, and those with chronic health conditions may experience more compounded mental health concerns. A variety of free digital tools have been produced to help you manage your mental health during the pandemic, including the federal government’s Wellness Together Canada, the Stronger Minds program, and Shoppers Drug Mart/Pharmaprix SilverCloud partnership.

If you need to speak to a mental healthcare professional in person, your family doctor can be a good place to start.  You can also check out this article on where to find free and accessible mental health care across Canada or learn more about services offered by your local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

In Québec, people of all ages are able to access the Québec Program of Mental Disorders free of charge.

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