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Case Studies & Research

Delivering Mental Health Support to Remote Communities

Sean Hougan | October 31, 2019

A professional organization composed of approximately 800 public employees in the Northwest Territories (NWT). As the sole bargaining agent for this professional group, the organization interprets collective agreements to protect its members. Additionally, the organization works to further support its members by offering professional development services and health and wellness resources.

Stigma, Access & Increasing Stress Levels

The Northwest Territories (NWT) is the third-largest subdivision of the second largest country in the world. Given how vast the geographic region is, half of the population lives in remote communities that don’t have regular access to doctors or medical professionals.

When doctors do visit communities, it is on a rotational basis. Mental health professionals like psychologists or psychiatrists are even more difficult to access and require long wait times and expensive flights to major city centers.

In recent years, the NWT organization surveyed its members to better understand workload and wellness issues. Their President shares that “results were unanimous in that employees were working well above a 40-hour work week and stress levels were extremely high.” He adds, “we knew we needed to find an innovative stress management and mental health program that could reach members wherever they are.”

The organization’s President also expressed concerns about stigma. Recognizing that even though mental illness stigma has decreased in recent years, “Many people still view mental illness and the inability to cope with stress as weakness.” He continues, “We knew that employee privacy and confidentiality would be imperative in addressing their mental health.”

With the combined issues of stigma, lack of access to mental health professionals, and growing stress-levels, the NWT organization and government sponsors made it a priority to help employees better manage worrisome stress levels. With executive support from a governmental department, the organization began looking for a solution to better support its members.

Starling Minds for Mental Health & Stress Management

In the fall of 2016, Starling Minds rolled out for the organization’s employees wherein 35% live in remote communities. Project sponsors identified that the 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 as the benefits considerably outweighed the costs. Employees across the territories would have access to:

  • Evidence-based mental health programs based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques that teach strategies to build mental fitness and decrease stress.
  • 24/7 mental health support for members and their families in remote communities who have severely limited access to mental health practitioners, if at all.
  • A private & confidential tool that removes the concern of stigma where members can get help from the comfort of their homes.
  • Leading mental health education that would only otherwise be taught in one-to-one sessions by a licensed psychologist who has been trained in CBT.
  • A proven program that builds resilience and decreases mental health symptoms such as anxiety, worry, and sadness so that members can be more effective at work and at home.

The organization’s President shares, “In a time when mental health and stress concerns are not viewed by the public as positive, this program allows people to work on their mental health in private and at their own pace from wherever they are without their colleagues or the public knowing.” He continues, “For the first time in history, we are offering immediate support to our members and their families who cannot wait weeks or months to get professional help from outside of their communities.”

Improved Work & Personal Lives

The organization receives reports that provide aggregate mental health results on participating employees.

These reports help organizations remain proactive if overall member mental health begins to decline. Member data is kept 100% confidential wherein statistics shared are for the group as a whole. Information provided also give project stakeholders an understanding of the impact Starling is making.

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

  • 91% of members believe that Starling helps them manage stress at work and at 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. The President exclaims, “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 and is why we continue to partner with them.”

Learn how Starling’s digital mental health solution will remove the largest barrier to effective mental healthcare in remote communities. Reach out – we’d love to chat!


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    Sean Hougan

    Sean is a passionate marketing professional who is even more passionate about mental health. She envisions a world wherein communities and societies work together to ensure that everyone has what they need for mental, emotional and physiological wellness.

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