Free Online Crisis Training for Essential Workers During Covid-19

Mental Health Commission of Canada launches free online crisis training for essential workers during COVID-19

In response to added pressures on essential workers during COVID-19, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) has developed a trio of free crisis response training programs designed to help front-line workers deal with the stress of these exceptional circumstances.

“I believe in paying it forward,” explained Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the MHCC. “We’re seeing all kinds of organizations stepping into the breach to do their part, from making protective gear to building ventilators. We asked ourselves, ‘What is it that we can offer?’ and the answer was clear: mental health training.”

Not only are those working in essential roles during COVID-19 at increased physical risk, they may also be experiencing mental health challenges or be called upon to support a person experiencing a crisis.

The three new online programs ꟷ Caring for Yourself, Caring for Your Team, and Caring for Others ꟷ are designed to help people deal with these new challenges and are based on the MHCC’s successful in-person courses: Mental Health First Aid and The Working Mind.

Caring for Yourself and Caring for Your Team focus on understanding, assessing, and improving mental health, both as an individual and within group settings. Caring for Others focuses on how to confidently engage in conversations about mental health during a crisis, whether it’s with your family and friends or in your communities and workplaces.

Participants will be introduced to the Mental Health Continuum Model, the “Big 4” coping strategies, and other tools to foster mental wellness and improve resiliency.

“We saw a need and were able to quickly pivot from our usual in-person, in-depth courses, and adapt our skills-based approach to this new context,” said Mike Pietrus, director of the MHCC’s Opening Minds anti-stigma initiative.

“As we paused our traditional course delivery, it was quickly evident that we could harness the tremendous skills of our trainers to bring some useful, hands-on coping strategies and practical stress-management skills to a community that is doing so much to keep the country up and running and safe.”

Registration for these time-limited courses is on a first-come, first-served basis. For essential workers, as defined by the government of Canada, they are being offered at no cost.

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NW Peace FASD Network Caregiver Support Series

The Northwest Peace FASD Network and Grande Prairie Family Education Society have launched a series of learning sessions for Caregivers/Parents of disabled children, youth or adults who are needing support during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

There are 4 thirty minute sessions in this Caregiver Support Series. The main focus of this series is to assist Caregivers with supportive strategies and resources. We will also have a lived experience from a parent who has a disabled child.

Local resources, as well as information from Alberta Health Services, the Government of Alberta and the World Health Organization will be shared to help the caregivers build their own support services.
Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. Thank you.

Caregivers poster- april 2020 LA (002)

Research Participants Needed! Understanding how mental and physical well-being during pregnancy are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

pregnancy_COVID-19_side-1To shed light on stress, depression and infant brain development during this time of extreme change,  a research team at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) and Faculty of Arts at the University of Calgary is asking pregnant moms about the impact COVID-19 is having on their mental and physical health. UCalgary researcher Dr. Catherine Lebel, PhD, from the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, is leading the study, building on her prior research on the prenatal environment and paediatric brain development.

Who can participate?

You are eligible if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Are less than 35 weeks pregnant
  • Are 18 years of age or older
  • Can read and write English
  • Live in Canada
  • Have access to a device with an internet connection

What does the study involve?

  • 30-45 minutes to complete the initial survey
  • Brief monthly surveys to follow up about your experience of pregnancy during COVID-19, mental health, coping and resiliency
  • Several optional follow up studies will launch in the future

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Caregivers

A member of the CanFASD Family Advisory Committee recently had the opportunity to participate in a research program that gave caregivers of individuals with FASD the skills to better manage the challenges and stresses of their daily lives using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

The goal of the research project was to measure the impact ACT training has on caregiver stress and well-being, and to understand if this approach is feasible and beneficial to families of individuals with FASD. The research is being conducted in Toronto by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the University Health Network (UHN).

Mary Ann Bunkowsky, a member of the CanFASD Family Advisory Committee, had the opportunity to participate in this research project. She attended one evening session and one full day workshop on ACT Training.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps individuals to struggle less with difficult things in their lives and mindfully connect with things that are most important in a way that is loving and respectful. ACT training gives individuals the skills to develop new and mindful relationships with their thoughts and feelings, rather than seeking to change or eliminate unwanted thoughts.

Canadian researchers have found that ACT training has alleviated levels of depression and stress in caregivers of individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions. However, this is the first research study to explicitly look at the impacts of this training on caregivers of individuals with FASD.

Mary Ann found this program extremely valuable and is looking forward to implementing the skills she learned during these trainings in her own family.

“The more we care for ourselves the better we can be for our families… My experience with ACT has enriched my life and given me some focus.”

The therapy training teaches individuals mindfulness, so staying in the moment. It also places a strong focus on reframing the mind to recognize that nothing is inherently happy. Your happiness comes from the things that you place value in, and it is something that you strive to create. For example, if you believe that having children will make you happy, then you place a strong value in parenting and family relations. ACT teaches you to reframe your mind and understand that by focusing on, and working towards, your values and goals, you will have a more meaningful and fulfilled life then if your life’s focus is on achieving the abstract notion of “happiness”.

ACT recognizes that unwanted thoughts and feelings will come into our minds, but we should work to change our relationships with these feelings and use them to inform our actions and reactions moving forward.

Mary Ann’s main takeaway from the program is that life is not about striving for happiness.

“Refocusing on our values allows us to feel fulfilled and content and maybe not so defeated by the challenges in our lives… It’s not about being happy; it’s about living a fulfilled life. If you’re living your values… then you will live a fulfilled life.”

She believes ACT can be extremely beneficial for other families like hers. However, in order to be effective, these training programs should be run by a knowledgeable and trained facilitator, who is preferably a caregiver of an individual with FASD. There are currently no FASD-specific ACT training programs available in Canada, but the findings of this currently unpublished research will hopefully inform the development of such programs in the future.

“Having the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as part of your life is really going to set your whole family up for success… This is something I want to take to the next level. I want to help myself first, and then share the ACT experience with my husband and children, and parents and caregivers to help us all live more fulfilling lives.”


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CanFASD STATEMENT: Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) during the COVID-19 pandemic

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The Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network and the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health are committed to supporting Canadians, our stakeholders, and public health efforts by providing reliable information to support sound decision making related to alcohol use in the context of the current COVID19 pandemic.

Today, it has been reported that Canadians have increased their alcohol use during this period of isolation CCSA report. The highest increase of alcohol use is for people aged 18-54. There is a prediction that there will be a baby boom in 2021 due to the isolation that couples of child bearing age are experiencing.

We encourage Canadians to be mindful that alcohol use during pregnancy can cause harm to fetal health and result in lifetime effects known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). There are many factors in addition to alcohol use, that affect risk for FASD, such as the mother’s overall health, nutrition, use of other substances, stress level and connection to prenatal care, as well as genetics. There is no known safe time or level of drinking during pregnancy, thus experts agree that it is safest not to drink alcohol in pregnancy and encourage reducing or stopping alcohol consumption by women and their partners in the preconception and perinatal period.

We encourage Canadians to:

• Ensure that they are using a reliable contraceptive if they are not planning to be pregnant.

• Reduce or eliminate alcohol use when planning a pregnancy.

• Be mindful of alcohol use if you are pregnant. The safest approach is to not use alcohol during this time.

• Seek out alternative coping strategies and support for managing the influences or pressures to drink.

• Seek information about risks and available supports from reliable sources.

• Talk to your health provider or other trusted practitioners.

Suggested resources:

Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines

Understanding Alcohol use and Pregnancy

Girls, Women, Alcohol, and Pregnancy

CEWH publications on maternal health and substance use

We encourage our Stakeholders to:

• To stay up to date with reliable information. ThePublic Health Agency of Canada provides regular updates.

• Follow the CanFASD Connect Blog for up to date information and helpful resources

• Reshare the information for their own networks.

• Maintain consistent messaging by using the CanFASD Social Media package (TBA)

Canada Revenue Agency Outreach

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is still closely monitoring the situation around the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the guidance provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Our top priority is the health and safety of Canadians, our partner organizations, and our employees.


As announced by the Prime Minister on March 18, 2020, the tax filing season will be extended from April 30 to June 1, 2020. We hope this will give community members and organizations the opportunity to file their income tax returns before the June 1 deadline.


We will provide updates on when we’re able to resume normal outreach activities.


Please refer to the below-noted links for CRA resources related to the COVID-19 Pandemic:  CRA website – Helping Canadians with the economic impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Government of Canada website – Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan Canada’s Economic Response Benefit  Apply for Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) with CRA


Please feel free to share this information and to contact me.


Thank you for your continued support and collaboration.



Bonnie McIntyre

Regional Outreach Officer/ Agente régionale du programme de visibilité

Outreach program/ Programme de visibilité

Canada Revenue Agency/ Agence du revenu du Canada  Tel: 587-475-3656