B.C. to fund 'Behind the Mask' initiative to help children, teens cope with anxiety

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The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt across the province, with many children and teens grappling with anxiety and stress caused by the global health crisis, according to Anxiety Canada.

The province announced a $555,000 grant Wednesday, geared at limiting the long-term effects of mental health issues among youth as a result of the pandemic.

It comes on the heels of B.C. announcing it's moving into Step 3 of its restart plan, which goes into effect on Thursday.

One of the main goals of the funding being provided to Anxiety Canada is to further develop its "Behind the Mask" initiative.

The province-wide mental health literacy video series is aimed at helping young people develop the tools necessary to cope with anxiety and stress.

"The mental health of many children, youth, families and caregivers took a hit in the pandemic, so we are adding resources to help people deal with these challenges," said Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions, in a news release. "I am grateful for Anxiety Canada's commitment to helping young people before, during and after the pandemic."

The funding also supports the continued distribution of digital and print resources on anxiety disorders, as well as panel discussions and podcast interviews to further connect people and facilitate important conversation.

The videos will be produced by local animators, along with the support of Charlie Demers, a voice actor and comedian who lives with anxiety.

"As a six-year-old boy, I remember having to wear a paper mask when I visited my mom at Vancouver General Hospital, and I've always felt this experience deeply impacted my disproportionate fears of contaminating others later in life," Demers said.

"When face masks became a very necessary part of all our children's lives in 2020, I knew that without the resources to guide them out the other side of the pandemic, thousands more kids could be permanently left with similarly, very painfully skewed perspectives. I thought I could contribute in some small way to preventing some of this suffering."