Mental health wellness texting service SaskWell offers new supports

Herald file photo.

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have partnered with a text-based service developer MEMOTEXT, to create a two-way wellness texting service called SaskWell.

SaskWell was developed to connect residents of Saskatchewan with information, supports and digital tools to support their mental health and wellbeing. The resources can be used to help with the challenges to mental health and wellness brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It really is a service built by Saskatchewan people and nurses for Saskatchewan people. We have gotten some really good feedback and people really like it. We just finished our first pilot 10 weeks and we have got two more 10 week cycles to go and one is just starting up this week, so it’s a perfect time to join and to be SaskWell,” project lead Dr. Tracie Risling explained.

Risling said the project has received funding for COVID-19 based research from the Canadian Institute for Health Research. It was also awarded funding based on mental health aspects. The Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation has also provided funding.

“We were lucky to receive this funding,” Risling said. “We set out to think about how we could create connection and understanding for people to know about the tools that are out there (and) to kind of help us out with our mental health and wellness. Because there are a lot of tools out there and maybe people just aren’t aware of these.”

The program runs over 10 weeks and people can text to join. It uses demographics to pair people with the proper mental health resources, since MEMOTEXT has the ability to partner needs with texting information based on responses.

“When we sign people up we ask them about what kind of data or WiFi access that you have and that helps us to target the resources more appropriately so everyone’s not getting the same thing,” she said. “I think that is really the cool thing. We have been doing some ongoing polling so people can share information with us through this via text. As the program goes on, it helps us to target information and provides better support.”

The SaskWell service is meant to bridge access divides and increase awareness of digital mental and wellness resources. Those who are interested in joining can text “JOIN” to 759355 or they can use the link to sign-up for the text-based service.

Once registered, participants will receive 10-weeks of resources and supports. This will include a week one match to a digital mental health tool and then frequent wellness prompts and tips. Polling questions allow participants to provide feedback on their pandemic experience to the research team, so that additional supports or information can be provided.

The survey and polling questions find where people are on a continuum from essentially flourishing to languishing.

“It’s just about having someone send you a couple of texts a week. Some of our wellness stuff is really simple, so it’s about taking a bit of time and maybe doing something creative, (like) getting outside (and) those kinds of things. It is just a reminder that we are here, that we are thinking about each other in Saskatchewan, and that we want to support each other through the challenges that continue with the pandemic,” Risling said.

She said the service was useful for people in rural remotes locations and uses texting to create a connection to other digital tools and resources.

“When you work in digital health, we think about the connectivity across the province and really the country. We are really trying to be a lot more aware of finding a point of connection for everyone. That’s a big part of what SaskWell is about,” Risling said.

This texting service is led by nursing researchers in partnership with patient and community advisors.