Sun Life Financial to launch online therapy expanding access to mental health care

Jun 5, 2017

Virtual cognitive behavioural therapy to help remove barriers such as location, time constraints and mobility

TORONTO, June 5, 2017 /CNW/ - Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada ("Sun Life") is piloting a new approach to expand access to mental health care for plan members with the launch of a virtual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) program. Offered in partnership with the University of Regina, this new online therapy option will lead to faster and easier access to CBT. With one in five Canadians living with a mental illness1, Sun Life is committed to providing access to meaningful mental health care in innovative and easily accessible ways.

"In an era where mental health claims represent almost 30 per cent2 of disability claims, it's more important than ever to explore new ways of delivering effective therapy faster to those who need it," said Dr. Marie-Hélène Pelletier, Assistant Vice-President, Workplace Health, Group Benefits, Sun Life Financial Canada. "We live in an increasingly digital world. Offering virtual CBT provides a new and innovative way to reach our plan members and provide flexible solutions, especially to those living in remote areas where access to qualified care may be limited."

Clients on an approved disability claim, with mild to moderate anxiety or depression, will be given the choice to receive therapy virtually. The CBT program is completed online through five self-paced modules. A therapist is assigned to each Client to check in weekly via email, tracking progress and assessing if the Client is benefitting from the online format.  

"Past research has shown virtual CBT to be just as effective as in-person therapy, with the added benefit of removing obstacles to care such as limited access to qualified therapists and mobility and time restrictions," said Dr. Heather Hadjistavropoulos, University of Regina Professor, Director of the Online Therapy Program.

"At least 500,000 Canadians miss work each week due to a mental health problem3, creating a significant impact on employers through loss of productivity, absenteeism and disability costs," Dr. Pelletier continued. "Virtual CBT is part of our ongoing commitment to deliver innovative products and services to our Clients to help improve their health and well-being."

Group Benefits are offered by Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, a member of the Sun Life Financial group of companies.

About Sun Life Financial
Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing a diverse range of insurance, wealth and asset management solutions to individuals and corporate Clients. Sun Life Financial has operations in a number of markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Bermuda. As of March 31, 2017, Sun Life Financial had total assets under management of $927 billion. For more information please visit www.sunlife.com.

Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under the ticker symbol SLF.

Note to Editors: All figures in Canadian dollars except as otherwise noted. 

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1 Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2013). Making the Case for Investing in Mental Health.

2 Sairanen, S., Matzanke, D., & Smeall, D. (2011). The business case: Collaborating to help employees maintain their mental well-being. Healthcare Papers, 11, 78–84.

3 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, "Mental Health and Addiction: Facts and Statistics." 2015

Media relations contact:
Yasna Criscione
Sun Life Financial
T. 416-204-8110
yasna.criscione@sunlife.com

SOURCE Sun Life Financial Canada