COVID-19: 2 new programs offer free services to help with mental health in Vancouver, across Canada, and beyond

No matter where you live, you're not alone

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      Stress, anxiety, grief, and fear have become common companions for many throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Two new initiatives are offering free resources to help get you through.

      WIRTH Hats' #WIRTHStayingIn

      The Vancouver-based hat company’s mission is to make counselling and therapy accessible to anyone and everyone, whether they can afford it or not.

      Cofounder Ben Miller launched the venture after losing not one but two dear friends to suicide. One of them, Jakob Wirth, whom he studied with at the Copenhagen Business School, had dreamed of making hats, just simple caps that people would be excited about wearing.

      After his passing, in 2015 Miller made two dozen hats to give to Wirth’s family and closest friends as a way to honour him and to represent so many invisible struggles.

      The tags on the hats read: “WIRTH Hats are in memory of Jakob Wirth, who passed away last year. Jakob’s dream was to create a hat company that people would love, so here’s toward Hats. May these hats serve as a reminder that when going through difficult times, there are always people to reach out to, as we are never alone as we sometimes think we are.”

      It was meant to be a one-off gesture. But then after the loss of his other good friend, he received a request for a hat. The mutual pal said having one would be a reminder of the “realness” of mental health.

      In the spring of 2018, WIRTH Hats was born.

      “We must break this taboo,” Miller writes on the WIRTH Hats website. “We all need someone to talk to who isn’t just a friend – an impartial professional who is there to listen, to let us know we are not alone and to help us make sense of what we are feeling and experiencing. This goes for when we are on top of the world, hitting rock bottom, and everywhere in between.

      “We have work to do to make counselling and therapy accessible for all, but more importantly, making it normal for all,” he says.

      With COVID-19 causing so much uncertainty and sorrow, that mandate is now more important than ever.

      In response, WIRTH Hats has introduced #WIRTHStayingIn. With support from its counselling provider, Betterhelp, it’s offering free online counselling to anyone who needs it and can’t afford it, no matter where in the world they live.

      The goal is to support as many people as possible during the COVID-19 crisis.

      #WIRTHStayingIn will continue through to the end of May, which is Mental Health Month, and possibly beyond. Over the last two weeks alone, WIRTH has received more than 600 counselling requests.

      More info is here.

      Stronger Minds by BEACON

      Manulife and non-profit benefits provider Green Shield Canada are sponsoring a new, free digital program called Stronger Minds by BEACON.

      People can access it at They’ll find support from mental health experts via regularly updated videos, quick reads, and simple activities.

      Based on what participants indicate they need, resources will evolve, touching on topics such as: overcoming worry, fear and stress; staying positive and hopeful; dealing with isolation and loneliness; parenting; maintaining motivation; getting better sleep; and more.

      If you are in crisis, please phone 911 or visit your nearest hospital emergency room.