Quinn, a grade 9 student in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, concludes that mental health care is not very easily accessible for everyone, “even though when it comes down to it, it’s simply health care”
Grade 9 students in the Collective Voice program at Aden Bowman Collegiate share their lives and opinions through newspaper columns and on community radio. Selected columns run each Monday in The Saskatoon StarPhoenix. On May 29, 2017, Quinn shared her article (Is there any substance to all the talk about mental health?), which focused on her experiences seeking help for mental health challenges. Her article is reprinted below.
Collective Voice is an integrated Grade 9 program combining the subjects of Social Studies, English Language Arts, and Arts Education. The focus of the program is learning in community, investigating the roots of inequality and injustice, and empowering students to find their voice and share it!
Is there any substance to all the talk about mental health?
Quinn says that “mental health issues are different than most physical illnesses
in that people tend to keep them hush-hush because they think it makes them look bad,
regardless of whether or not it’s their fault.”
When did good mental health become a luxury?
I am a teen who struggles with mental illness. I’ve been compelled to hide it, considering it is such an off-limits issue even though it is so common. In my experience there have never been enough resources for mental health in my city, province, or country. Mental health has been, and continues to be, overlooked.
A large part of my experience with mental illness has been hiding the way I’m feeling. Mental health issues are different than most physical illnesses in that people tend to keep them hush-hush because they think it makes them look bad, regardless of whether or not it’s their fault. Even now, I get the impression I should be ashamed of the illness I was genetically predisposed to develop.
Not knowing how to ask for help is also a common problem with mental health issues. I didn’t know there was anything wrong until I talked to someone else with a diagnosed mental illness, which made me realize my perception of the world wasn’t normal.
While growing up, mental illness was something people just didn’t talk about. I didn’t know anything about mental health until I did research and educated myself.
Stigma isn’t the only part of it. The lack of resources doesn’t end once you ask for help. In Saskatoon, there is a six-month waiting list to see a pediatric psychiatrist. Dr. Chris Wilkes, president of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry who works at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, told CTV news there is a chronic shortage of child and youth psychiatrists across the country.
“You can have a wait of 30 to 60 days for a psychiatrist (in Calgary),” he said. “In other centres, you may have a year (long) wait list.”
Research shows that only one in five children who need mental health services receives them. When I first read this statistic I was surprised, but when I looked at the numbers it started to make sense. A 2016 CTV article about mental health said Canada needs about 1,500 child psychiatrists but currently has about 500. It estimated about 1 million Canadian teens have debilitating mental health issues and only 500 specialists exist to care for all of them.
Unfortunately, my experience seems to be typical for mentally ill Canadian teens — a frustrating saga of misdiagnosis and waiting rooms.
Access to mental health care can come with shorter waiting times, but the price tag is $100 to $200 an hour because private practices are not covered by the health region. Long term counselling is also very expensive, which is one of the many reasons it took me a long time to open up about my mental health struggles.
Mental health care is not very easily accessible for everyone, even though when it comes down to it, it’s simply health care.
We speak with Collective Voice program participant and student Quinn.
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— People First Radio (@peoplefirstrad) June 21, 2017