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Case Studies & Research

Delivering Mental Health Support to Remote Communities

Updated | January 27, 2020

It is well known that remote workers face a unique set of mental health challenges. 

The Challenge: Stigma, Access & Increasing Stress Levels

For one of our clients in the Northwest Territories, recruitment and retention of educators posed a big challenge for the teacher’s federation. 

As the sole bargaining agent for approximately 800 public employees in the Northwest Territories (NWT), the organization was the interpreter and protector of its members during collective bargaining periods. Likewise, the organization also offered professional development services, and health and wellness resources to support members.

Home to 33 communities, 49 schools, and two post-secondary institutions, many individuals within the school system live in remote and isolated areas and face significant social, economic, and cultural challenges.

Given how vast the geographic region is, half of the population does not have regular access to doctors or medical professionals. When doctors do visit communities, it is on a rotational basis. In particular, mental health professionals like psychologists or psychiatrists are hard to access and require long wait times and expensive flights to major city centres; as a result, taking a significant portion of the funding available for wellness programs. 

The NWT organization surveyed its members to understand workload and wellness issues better. Their President shares that results were unanimous in that employees were working well above a 40-hour workweek, and stress levels were extremely high.  

“We needed to find an innovative mental health program that could reach members wherever they are.” — NWT Association President

The organization’s President also expressed concerns about stigma. Recognizing that even though stigma has decreased in recent years, many people still view mental illness and the inability to cope with stress as a weakness. 

“Employee privacy and confidentiality would be imperative in addressing their mental health.” — NWT Association President

With community stigma, lack of access to support, and growing stress-levels, the NWT Association made access to effective mental health a priority. 

With executive support from a governmental department, the organization began looking for a solution to better support its members. Any mental health service also needed to provide social and peer support due to the importance of community healing for people. 

The Solution: 24/7 Private, Community-Based Mental Healthcare 

After months of searching, Starling Minds was selected and rolled out to the organization’s 800 employees, 35% of whom living in remote communities. Project sponsors chose Starling as its technology met all of their requirements and more. Stakeholders were excited at the opportunity to be the first in NWT’s history to offer far-reaching and evidence-based mental health technology.

Starling Minds was an easy decision for the organization. Employees would have access to:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques that focused on the positive aspects of an individual, with safe strategies to identify negative thoughts and ways to balance them
  • 24/7 mental health support for members and their families to heal together, especially when there’s limited access to mental health practitioners
  • A private and confidential tool to treat without the stigma associated with seeking help or counselling
  • An online, confidential community acting as a beacon of social support, allowing members to share their struggles with peers on the same journey 
  • A proven program that builds resilience and decreases anxiety, worry, and sadness so that members can be more effective at work, at home, and within their community

“With the stigma around mental health, Starling allowed people to work on their mental health privately, at their own pace, and wherever they were.”

“For the first time, we offered immediate support to members and their families who cannot wait weeks for professional help outside of their communities.” — NWT Association President

The Results: Improved Work & Personal Lives

After one year with Starling Minds, the organization learned that:

  • 91% of members believe that Starling helps them manage stress at work and home
  • Member depression symptoms reduced by 23%
  • Member anxiety symptoms reduced by 6%
  • Member worry symptoms reduced by 7.4%

Today, 1 in 4 of their people use Starling Minds to build resilience to increasing stressors both at work and at home. Given the success of the program and how much member mental health has improved, the government department continues to allocate budget towards Starling Minds. 

“Starling Minds goes above and beyond to provide us with friendly and personalized support. The team always accommodates our members’ needs so that they feel cared for. This personalized service has made Starling a big success for our organization. It is why we continue to partner with them.” — NWT Association President

We hope you join us in offering remote communities around Canada the support they’ve needed for much too long. We have seen our impact on remote communities. We believe that our solution has been critical in removing the greatest challenges facing remote communities today. 

Be the advocate they deserve and reach out – we’d love to chat!

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