Mental Health Awareness Week runs October 3-9, 2021. As a practicing psychologist, every week is mental health week. When the spotlight is on psychology, I feel a professional responsibility to highlight some important issues:
- Mental health is health
There is a health care disparity in Canada. For physical health issues, people are treated until they get well. For mental health issues, a lower standard of care exists. You are placed on a waitlist for services. In the meantime, you receive little support. When you finally do access services, they are often time-limited. While this may work for some, it fails many. To achieve mental health parity, people should receive care until they are well.
- Long-term support is becoming harder to access
As the demand for mental health services grows and funding is stagnant, it becomes more difficult for people to receive the support they need. Both patients and therapists are being asked to do more with less.
- Ignoring mental health is expensive
It is estimated that mental health issues cost the workplace about 51 billion per year (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2020). Further, untreated mental health issues often end up in expensive emergency room visits.
The Psychologists’ Association of Alberta has long advocated for mental health parity. Currently, we have a two-tiered system: Those who can afford timely service through a private psychologist, and those who cannot afford it despite critical need. All Albertans, regardless of income, should have access to psychological services.
I would also like to note that if short-term therapies have not worked for you, this is not a personal failing. You are not alone. It takes time to develop a trusting relationship with a therapist. Very often, people would fare better if they were given a little more time. The bottom line is that no one knows in advance how many sessions a person will need. For some, a single-session can be effective. For others, perhaps a handful. In many cases, people will do best with 10 sessions or more. As a society, we need to understand that human connections and healing cannot be rushed. I am hopeful that our advocacy will help Albertans get the support they need.