Semiahmoo Secondary student volunteers Alexa Coote (left) and Takara Allen get an early start on baking goodies for the TogetherSSWR online bake sale, which will help fund services and resources for those dealing with mental health impacts of COVID-19. Contributed photo

Semiahmoo Secondary student volunteers Alexa Coote (left) and Takara Allen get an early start on baking goodies for the TogetherSSWR online bake sale, which will help fund services and resources for those dealing with mental health impacts of COVID-19. Contributed photo

Online bake sale boosts funding for mental health supports in South Surrey and White Rock

TogetherSSWR provides services and information for those dealing with COVID-19 stress

A Peninsula-based volunteer organization is offering a sweet deal for fans of baked goods.

TogetherSSWR is providing an opportunity for White Rock and South Surrey residents to get a jump-start on Christmas season baking needs – and, at the same time, help fund the valuable resource it provides for those dealing with COVID-19-related mental health issues.

Since April the organization – an ad-hoc collaboration between a group of private-practice psychologists and registered clinical counsellors – has been providing free volunteer COVID-related therapy and emotional support, plus an online resource base of community and COVID mental health programs and wellness information content, to youth, adults and seniors on the Semiahmoo Peninsula.

The organization is hoping to fund the continuing service – and also raise awareness of it – with its online bake sale, currently taking orders for a wide range of baked goodies until Dec. 3, at its website (together-wr.com).

Co-coordinator (and registered clinical counsellor) Melanie Huck said the team of volunteer bakers includes psychology students from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, occupational therapy students from UBC and students from Semiahmoo Secondary.

Orders placed will be available for pick-up at Semiahmoo Secondary (1785 148 St.) on Dec. 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with free delivery (within 10 kilometres) Dec. 12-13 on orders over $15.

Also helping to sweeten the proposition is a 15 per cent discount on orders over $10 – and there are even some vegan and gluten-free options available.

“I think they’re going to be very busy,” Huck laughed.

She added that there is also an area on the online order form which allows patrons to round-up their orders with an extra contribution, should they wish.

“Any amount anyone wants to donate will be greatly appreciated,” she said.

Huck said that while the organization, which started as a self-funding group, has recently received grants for some of its services from the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation and the White Rock Rotary Club, proceeds from the bake sale will go directly to continued website operations.

“We provide a centralized website of local resources and mental health information available through such providers as Sources, Division of Family Practice physicians and Alexandra Neighborhood House,” Huck said.

“We also provide a data base of local mental health professionals providing free short-term support for any resident of White Rock and South Surrey impacted by COVID-19.”

Huck noted that, by providing a clearing-house of local information and services, the website reduces the demand load that would be placed on the offices of each individual provider, while ensuring that those in need are quickly connected with the right services.

“We update our support and resource information on a regular basis,” she said, adding this reduces the risk of people wasting time visiting defunct or outdated sites.

“When people are under distress, it can be overwhelming to sift through the information.”

There is also a resource line – 604-531-0361 – she noted.

“When we were developing the service, we were aware that there are some people who are not as comfortable using the internet, so they can phone and leave a voice mail, and someone will get back to them very soon,” she said.

Given current rising case levels, Huck said she doesn’t see pandemic-related problems going away any time soon – even if a COVID cure appeared miraculously overnight.

“There could be a lasting impact,” she said.

“One main emotion most people are experiencing through COVID is anxiety – which is understandable,” she said.

“But for people with pre-existing mental health issues, there are much higher levels of anxiety and depression. The financial impacts of COVID have also increased stress, while there has been a shift for youth away from activities and socialization.

And social isolation has also increased mental health distress.”

As well as providing short-term therapy, part of TogetherSSWR’s mandate is to provide area residents more reading materials on potential mental health impacts, Huck said.

“People can access articles on decision-making under stress and stress reduction techniques,” she said.

“Our student volunteers are also writing blogs, and there is also a lot of information with regard to coping strategies on the website.”

TogetherSSWR can also be accessed on social media – on Instagram (TogetherSS/WR); on Facebook (Together White Rock); and on Twitter (@together_sswr).



alex.browne@peacearchnews.com

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