The State of Our Mental Health System

I called into the office of a psychiatrist in Barrie, ON sometime last month. I spoke with the receptionist, who while lovely and helpful, presented me with the next available appointment date for a psychiatric diagnostic appointment: Friday, October 25, 2017 at 9:15 am. As she read off the date and time, the only thing I found myself saying was “Oh god.”

In ten months time I will be able to speak to a psychiatrist and tell him everything that has happened to me and everything that I feel and live with daily. Ten. Months. I am on the cancellation list as of now, leaving my appointment potentially within the next few months if someone cancels.While I tried my best not to be angry, I am still disappointed. My heart aches and I grow tired. I was hoping for an appointment within a month to show this doctor the worst of my sadness and anxiety. But it will have to work much longer, once again.

It still baffles me that in a country with a praised health care system can have such long waitlists and such large date gaps when it comes to psychiatric appointments. For a field that is pursued by a number of students in universities across Canada and the world, there seems to be a lack of these doctors here. It saddens me that while I have the patience and ability to wait this long, others may be near-crisis or creeping towards a breakdown and can’t receive this treatment sooner. I am aware of crisis hotlines and hospitals that provide counsellors for crisis, but I sincerely doubt anyone wants to reach that point. It also disappoints me that while one can see a therapist in the mean time, typically therapists are not covered directly by health insurance, especially if they are in-home or have a private practise. I have seen one therapist and one psychologist in the past three years. The therapist I saw for one session and cost me $100, which forced me to discontinue as I could not claim it under my insurance. The psychologist I saw twice and cost me $150 a session, which I only received 80% coverage over.

I don’t mean to sound so pessimistic, but it’s difficult to look up when money and time are not on your side. I don’t know if I would ever reach crisis point, but the thought of someone else who may not have access suffering is disheartening. I am lucky enough to have a doctor who is willing to help me and treat me as required. I hope that others who are in my position and struggling with their mental health are able to keep their head up and press on until they receive the help they need.

Good luck and much love.

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9 thoughts on “The State of Our Mental Health System

  1. I think there is a definite need for more counsellors and psychiatrists. You really should not have to wait that long to get the help you need. This is why I’m pursuing a career in this field. You deserve help in a timely manner, I hope you get a cancellation appointment soon!

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  2. I know what you mean about mental health care not being that great. Not once, but twice I was let out of the of the hospital after being on suicide watch. Not once did I get the help that I needed. I’m so proud of you for taking that step to get better. Its not easy taking that step, I’ve been struggling for years. And I’m too terrified to talk to my family doctor about it. What you’ve done takes strength. It sucks that you have to wait so long. But hold in there. The wait will be worth it.

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  3. I can relate. I’ve been in mental health crisis for some time now. My doctor referred me to a psychiatrist in Oshawa. Their office called me a few days later,the first available appointment is in 9 months.

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      • That doesn’t sound right to me. I understand having a packed schedule as a doctor but things like this make me shake my head. A follow up should be sought out before medication is administered, but I can’t speak from a professional standpoint

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        • My family doctor referred me to a psychiatrist in May 2016. The earliest appointment was in January 2017. I saw the psychiatrist at Lakeridge Health. My appointment was 10 min long. I was placed on a mood stabilizer and two other meds after being informed that I have ‘depression with anxious distress’. I take one in am, one at night and one as needed. No follow appointment was scheduled, but I am now a “regular” with my psychiatrist, so I can call his office directly for appointments without a referral. His receptionist told me that he can see me within 45 days, no crisis calls, no urgent appointments. I was asked to go to a hospital in case of emergency. I did a few times before that. No, thank you. Awful. 4-6 hours wait and you are being sent home as soon as they realize you aren’t at risk of self harm. Ididn’t go there because I was suicidal, I was in crisis and needed help.
          Thanks for sharing Darienne.
          JR

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  4. I totally understand and have experienced this. This post has taught me that it wasn’t just something that happened to me, it’s a prevalent issue that needs to change. So many students study Psychology and would love to continue on, maybe even as far as a doctorate, but the competitive climate here in Southern Ontario hinders the number of doctors we actually create and have. I personally love psych and study it, but I would have to pray, say a chant, and spend the next two years with my fingers crossed just to be considered.

    alexandra.campbell@uoit.net

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  5. I can connect to this on a very personal level. I come from a very rural area and there is next to no support for mental health, either you wait half a year for an appointment or you pay around $150 per session with coverage. That combined with my family’s coverage being laughably small means that one person in my family could have one appointment every 3 months. This is concerning as mental illness tends to run in families. It is comforting knowing that this is not just happening in rural areas (where the care is usually lesser then that of a city), but concerning as…well, it is a problem that many people face.

    nate.ryder.smith@gmail.com

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