I hear so often about people going to therapy for a variety of reasons. I feel that in the past few years, conversations around mental health and counselling or therapy have become more widely accepted, and more frequently spoken about, but the conversations also highlight how inaccessible mental health supports are. When so many people need therapy for mental health issues, when does it become systemic?
In Canada, by the age of 40, half of the population will have had a mental illness, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. Most Canadians though, must wait months, even up to a year or longer to meet with a mental health professional. The cost of therapy is another factor which makes seeking help very difficult for many people. Many have called upon the government to make access to psychologists and therapists more affordable and a quicker process, but not much has changed in the past few years regarding mental health care. Health professionals are saying that COVID-19 has changed that, and the need for more mental health professionals has become even more crucial.
Why do people need therapy?
People attend therapy for many reasons; life altering events, losing a loved one, adjusting to an illness, etc. Working through childhood trauma or past events that have caused harm is important, in general, therapy is a tool that can help people work through all sorts of things. Therapy offers support and guidance that people haven’t been able to find in other areas of their life.
Seeing a counsellor or therapist offers more positive outcomes than negative ones in terms of working through emotions, trauma or diagnosed mental illnesses. The one barrier for those who need access is the cost.
How accessible is therapy to the average person?
In Canada, unless your job comes with benefits which include coverage for a psychologist, psychotherapist, or counsellor, Canadians are left to cover the costs themselves. The average session with a therapist is over $100, making seeking help out of the question for a majority of people. Therapy is one thing that so many people need but cannot afford.
Government funded therapy would make mental health support far more accessible to lower- and middle-class Canadians, and it would begin to help what doctors have described as the “mental health crisis” that the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted. According to CAMH, 81% of workers said that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health. It is so important right now that the government prioritize the mental health of Canadians and improve access to support.
Canada developed a support called AbilityCBT, which is a free online support for those dealing with depression or anxiety. This is a great tool, but it fails to include those who deal with other forms of mental illness. Cognitive behavioural therapy does not work for everyone, and self-guided learning is not the best form of learning for everyone either. This support is also only available to Canadians 16 and older, when a huge portion of young teenagers deal with feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and more. Mental health supports need to be fully rounded and fully accessible to all for them to be effective and make a difference in people’s lives.
How is the mental health crisis a systemic issue?
The mental health crisis is a global one which we are not immune to. Mental illness is one of the leading causes of disability in Canada, as well as around the world. CAMH reports that the economic burden of mental illness in Canada is an estimated $51 billion per year, not to mention the burden of the reductions in health care. The mental health crisis is systemic because of the global scale that people are affected by it. There are deep systemic issues regarding mental health care that seriously affect people and hinder them from getting access to care and overcoming their mental illness. When one person dies every 40 seconds from suicide, there is a huge problem, one that needs urgently to be fixed.
To prevent suicide and better the health of people globally, we need to fix not only our health care systems when it comes to mental health but also fix a lot of the problems within our society that make life so difficult and unbearable for many, things like education access, livable wages, fair working conditions and affordable housing.
I recommend you go read more on the CAMH website; it is full of statistics and really good information regarding mental health.