EDMONTON -- A bit of hope, delivered right to your phone. With the province now under a state of emergency to fight the spread of COVID-19, Alberta introduced the "text for hope" program.

"This free program is an additional resource. To help us find encouragement and strength as we navigate the day to day challenges of a new normal," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw earlier this week when the program was introduced.

The idea was developed in 2016, during the Fort McMurray wildfires. Alberta health services rolled out a subscription text service to help those with anxiety and depression. Experts say the need is evident.

“It took us two years for us to have nearly 20,000 people subscribe, and we have about 30,000 people subscribed to text for hope program in only 4 days,” said psychiatrist Dr. Vincent Agyapong.

The service provides daily texts based on cognitive behavioural therapy. Agyapong says the techniques are commonly used to treat depression and anxiety.

"What these messages do is disrupt the negative thinking which usually comes with depression and anxiety," he said.

The program was recognized by the World Health Organization for its success during, and following the fires in 2016, and Agyapong believes “text for hope” will help even more people.

"People are not going to work as usual, people have lost their jobs because so many jobs have been impacted so it’s impacting people’s daily livelihoods," he said.

With restrictions on face-to-face meetings and group therapy sessions, Agyapong says discussions are underway to develop text-support programs for those dealing with addictions, and possibly another one for those battling serious illnesses, and their families, during this time of separation. 

To subscribe to the program, text COVID19HOPE to 393939.