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The Cost of Mental Health Care in Canada

In recent months mental health services in the province have received provincial funding boosts. In May of this year, the province announced $3 million was set to fund various mental health-related projects and services.

$600,000 went to Huddle NorWest in addition to the $385,000 they receive from the province annually. In a release from the province announcing the new funds, Huddle NorWest was described as an“initiative that provides a continuum of mental health, substance use and addictions services” in addition to walk-in social services for 12 to 29 years old. 

The provincial government gives $600,000 annually to The Strongest Families Institute to fund its “e-mental health program” for youth and adults across the province. The Strongest Families Institute provides programs for families with children between 3 and 17 years old to help with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues common among minors.

The government of Manitoba has also invested $4.2 million over the last three years to expand youth services at the Health Sciences Centre. It will be investing $2 million annually in this objective. This investment aims to reduce wait times and increase capacity for intensive child and adolescent treatment services, outpatient mental health services, anxiety disorders services for children and youth, and child and adolescent rapid assessment clinics. 

In June, the Manitoba government announced $2.4 million in annual funding to expand virtual support for those struggling with their mental health. This will fund two programs which work to conduct an initial assessment as well as follow-up care. Launched in 2021, both initiatives were designed for people living in rural areas. 

As for the federal government, they announced in February that $46 billion in new healthcare money would be transferred to the provinces over ten years. Of this money, $25 billion are intended to improve four specific areas: family health services, health workers and backlogs, mental health and substance use and a “modernized health system.” While this is a substantial sum, it is worth noting that during the 2021 federal election campaign, the Trudeau government pledged $4.5 billion over five years for mental health. This transfer of funds for the purpose of mental health has not been launched, and it is presumed they will not be moving forward with this campaign promise. 

While the government continues to fund mental health care, the cost of seeing an actual therapist remains high. The primary focus of the provincial government has been to enhance the accessibility of mental health care to those in greatest need and in a position where they cannot afford to pay for therapy. While this will surely help plenty, therapy costs continue to keep it out of the reach of many. 

Mental Health By The Numbers

In recent years mental health has come to the forefront of our societal focus. Now more than ever, people are encouraged to talk about their feelings rather than bottling up their emotions. With this increase in the public narrative about mental health from schools, workplaces, and the front pages of magazines and newspapers, many have begun to reach out and seek help for what ails their mind.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 20 per cent of Canadians will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. Less than a third of those affected will seek help. Many refuse to seek mental health care due to the stigma associated with seeing a therapist or counsellor. Shame and embarrassment can sometimes be associated with therapy, and many fear they will be judged. 

Cost is another continual barrier between mental health care and those who need it. Therapy in Canada can start around $65 and can go well beyond $300 per session, with the average being around $150 per session. While many insurance programs can assist with these costs, they cannot help individuals find an available therapist. The first obstacle individuals seeking help will encounter is waiting for a therapist who is available. 

The Canadian Institute for Health Information released data ranging from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, which stated half of Canadians waited 22 days on average for their first therapy session, while roughly 10 per cent of Canadians will wait as long as four months for their first session.  

Additionally, individuals must find a therapist who has experience working with their specific needs. A therapist-client relationship also needs to be one where communication is comfortable. This attribute can only be decided by meeting and talking, which will cost the client the same charge as every other appointment. This can be daunting to some as they may be cautious about spending money on a therapist they do not want to continue seeing. 

Among the most famous modes of mental health care in Canada and the United States is BetterHelp.com. Advertised by countless podcasts and Youtube channels, BetterHelp connects individuals with therapists via the Internet. Sessions are held over video calls, allowing for greater accessibility. BetterHelp has had over two million users since it was founded in 2013. Unfortunately, BetterHelp entered the crosshairs of public scrutiny after the company was charged for sharing user data pertaining to their interests and mental health. 

In March of this year, the Federal Trade Commission issued an order banning BetterHelp from “sharing consumers’ health data, including sensitive information about mental health changes, for advertising.”  

The order also determined the company should pay $7.8 million to consumers to settle the charge of having “revealed consumers’ sensitive data with third parties such as Facebook and Snapchat for advertising after promising to keep such data private.” 

Accounts can be found in reviews stating questionable experiences with BetterHelp therapists -one of which claims a therapist using a 10-minute introduction to pitch their book, but the overall ratings and reviews suggest these are anomalous experiences. 

The Impact of COVID-19 

The importance of appropriate observation of one’s mental health has become even more important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Internationally, rates of depression and anxiety increased substantially. In the United Kingdom, rates of depression doubled from 2020 (10 per cent of adults) to 2021 (21 per cent of adults- Link), and in the United States, rates of depression went from 8.5 per cent pre-pandemic to 32.8% in 2021. Link 

The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the well-being of Canadians as well. In a 2022 survey published by the Angus Reid Institute, 54 per cent of Canadians reported their mental health had worsened since 2020. In that same period, 56 per cent reported their sense of optimism had decreased noticeably, while 41 per cent answered their life overall had gotten worse. 

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health surveyed over 1,000 Canadian adults in 2022. Among those suffering the greatest impact of the post-COVID mental health crisis are people between 18 and 39 years old. 33.5 per cent of those surveyed between 18 and 39 reported increased anxiety, 29 per cent reported increased loneliness, and nearly 28 per cent reported an increase in feelings of depression. 

The report also highlighted that increases of depression, loneliness and anxiety increased most significantly among Canadian women. Overall, 24 per cent of those surveyed reported feeling lonely, compared to 19 per cent reported in 2021.  

– Matthew Harrison, U Multicultural

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