In terms of health care, we have it pretty good. If you are unfortunately diagnosed with cancer, most, if not all of your treatment will be paid for. If you break your leg, you can go to the ER and get a cast and leave without a bill. If you require surgery, the government will pay for that too. But what if your issue isn’t physical? What if what’s holding you back in life is a mental concern? Well, then you’re kind of out of luck.
There are indeed mental health services that are covered by provincial programs such as OHIP here in Ontario. We are all allowed free access to psychiatrists, which sounds great on the surface. But the real story is that most psychiatrists are incredibly overworked and many have waiting lists over a year long. For anyone who has ever experienced a mental health crisis, you know that waiting a year just isn’t an option.
And if you are mentally well enough to wait for that year (or more) there is only so much a psychiatrist can do for you with their limited time and vast client lists. Sure, they can prescribe and monitor your medication. But they typically don’t have time to sit down with you week after week and get to the real reasons why you are facing either depression, anxiety, addiction or any other mental health issue.
Psychotherapists specialize in that kind of ‘getting to the root of the problem’ type of therapy. And each year, countless lives are changed by the hundreds of excellent psychotherapists we have in this country. But for every life that is changed by psychotherapy, their lives are also changed by way of having to spend their hard-earned money and by prioritizing their mental health, sometimes at the expense of other important bills.
Whenever I am discussing treatment with a new client, their first question is inevitably ‘is this covered by the government?’
My answer has to unfortunately be ‘no, it’s not. But someday, I sure hope it will be.’
There are of course some private benefit packages that do cover psychotherapy but most of us are not lucky enough to have such in depth personal coverage from our employers. And that leaves many paying out of pocket for what can be a fairly costly expenditure.
If therapy was free for everyone in Canada, we would see an incredible reduction in the amount of sick days due to depression and anxiety. Productivity would go through the roof and our emergency rooms would be able to focus more of physical injuries instead of having to attend to mental health crises as well.
We are a progressive country and we lead in many areas. Unfortunately we are falling flat when it comes to mental health treatment. We’ve decided that only the rich and prosperous can have access to therapy.
And that just doesn’t sound very progressive to me.