LOW INCOME AND MENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS: TWO CURSES THAT GO HAND-IN-HAND

Mental health problems like depression can be life-changing. Even though the stigma surrounding  issues like anxiety and depression are starting to lessen, it can be difficult to get help if you don’t have money.

The way the mental health system generally works in Canada is that you can see almost any private therapist immediately…if you can afford the $100 per hour fee that most charge. If money is a concern, organizations like the Canadian Mental Health Association can assist you, but there will be a considerable wait, often several months. Even when you do get to see a therapist, there is generally a limit of a half dozen or so visits. Generally, the only time someone can “jump the queue” is if they are feeling unsafe and on the verge of suicide. In such cases of immediate need, they will meet with a crisis councilor within a day or two. Those professionals will assess and refer them to a psychiatrist; treatment will proceed from there.

While there is a lot of work to be done to improve mental health care for lower income people in big cities, things are worse the further you get from areas with large populations. Mental health situations are of particular concerns for indigenous people as they can be considerable distances from therapists and not have the transportation to get there.

Funding is always in short supply for social programs, but it is clearly needed to provide a level of mental health care that even approaches the adequate. While politicians always say things like, “Where will the money come from?,” it is imperative to think about the other costs that can ensue: lost productivity, lost jobs, failed relationships, and family strife, among others.

There is no magic bullet solution to Canada’s mental health care crisis, but we need to spend more time looking for something that helps.