Wednesday October 10th is World Mental Health Day. The World Health Organization (WHO) is using the message “Mental Health: We’re in this together” to help spread the word and I agree with them that mental health affects us all.
As a psychologist I have worked for years with people battling anxiety, depression and a multitude of other mental health challenges. The way a person changes when in the throes of mental illness is mind-boggling. It is as though the mental illness invades the person’s soul and takes over control of their thoughts and feelings. People in the depths of mental illness are no longer themselves and they no longer think rationally. I believe people in this place are suffering in unimaginable ways and the pain blinds them.
Getting timely, thorough mental health care in Canada can be incredibly challenging, and costly. It takes months, if not years, on a waitlist to access mental health support paid for by the Canadian medical services plan. Children who show up to emergency in a severe mental health crisis often leave without ever seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist or with any kind of follow-up care.
Registered psychologists in private practice, unlike most psychiatrists, actively provide in-depth assessment and psychotherapy, and yet they are not covered by the medical services plan. I have had families scrimp and save to be able to provide treatment to their children. There are many families who simply go without. In the complex new age that we live in, where children are exposed to violence and pornography online and fentanyl is sold in our high schools, are their mental health challenges any less critical than their physical health needs?
A lack of accessible and affordable mental health care services has a negative impact on our citizens and our society. We see it in headlines all the time. If our government seriously wants to disrupt the current mental health challenge we are facing as a society, the first step would be to acknowledge that caring for mental health needs is as essential to life and death as caring for physical health needs.
Instead of flooding family doctors’ waiting rooms and emergency rooms with people well down the path of mental health crisis, allow people to seek out professionals with expertise in this area and cover this treatment as you would cover the treatment of a broken bone. At the very least covering this treatment in the paediatric population would be an important first step.
– Dr. Jillian Roberts