[Opinion] Breaking the dichotomy between mental and physical health


The enormous cost, both economic and psychological, of mental health problems has long been known. More than ever, mental health should be at the heart of electoral commitments.

In Quebec, while the government places the increase in the offer of mental health services among its priorities, only 6.7% of the program expenditures of the Ministry of Health and Social Services are devoted to mental health.

By way of comparison, France and England spend 15% and 13% respectively. When we know that a quarter of consultations with family doctors in Quebec are of a psychological nature, it seems obvious that these minimal investments do not correspond to the needs of the population.

Since access to a family doctor is a priority for Quebecers, shouldn’t we allow family medicine professionals to care for more patients by increasing access to mental health services?

Serious consequences

It goes without saying that in a system where psychologists mainly go to the private sector, it is above all the people most in need who suffer from the lack of public access. The consequences of this inappropriate system are omnipresent. Beyond the staggering economic costs, this mismanagement puts pressure on the entire system. Emergency room visits for mental health-related problems are longer, more frequent, and the system is ill-suited to receive the patients concerned.

We are also witnessing a significant phenomenon of revolving doors, particularly with the implementation of the Quebec Program for Mental Disorders and the difficulties related to mental health access points. Many patients leave unsatisfied and without a solution, which exacerbates their social and psychological difficulties.

Physicians must fall back on medication, knowing that an in-depth psychological assessment followed by psychotherapy would be necessary and would help the person return more quickly to the job market or to school.

Community organizations

Finally, the community organizations that we have relied on to provide certain services for decades are still underfunded. After a failed attempt to transfer patients from the public network to private psychologists, Minister Lionel Carmant recently distributed grants for professionals working in the network (eg criminologists, psychoeducators) to become psychotherapists.

At first glance, this seems like a good idea. However, knowing that no solution has been put in place to solve the problems of attracting and retaining psychologists in the network and that psychologists offer much broader services than psychotherapy, we quickly see that it is not is not an effective solution. And then, who will do the essential work of criminologists and psychoeducators if they are busy doing psychotherapy?

The game of musical chairs is not a solution! Let’s listen to Quebeckers and solve the basic problem. Which party will be ready to make the necessary changes?

An investment that pays off

Every dollar invested in mental health could result in an estimated return of between $1.78 and $3.15. The Coalition of Quebec Public Network Psychologists is proposing a plan involving the hiring of 450 psychologists in the public sector, accompanied by a salary catch-up to stimulate recruitment, which would save $228 million per year in visits to family doctors , emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

Improving access to mental health services and access to psychologists in the public network is a great way to increase the accessibility of family doctors, reduce waiting times in emergency rooms and save money ! It’s time to break the dichotomy between mental health and physical health.

Mental health problems have very real consequences for a large part of the population. It is high time to give them the importance and funding they deserve. Let’s improve public access to mental health services and solve the major problems of attracting and retaining psychologists in our public network.

Quebec can be proud of the public and equitable nature of access to health care. Why should mental health be an exception to this philosophy?

* This text is signed by:

Catherine Serra Poirier, psychologist, liaison vice-president of the Coalition of psychologists of the Quebec public network
Karyne Pelletier, physician and advisor to Quebec Doctors for the public system
Connie Scuccimarri, psychologist, administrator of the Coalition of Psychologists of the Quebec Public Network
Stan Kandelman, physician and advisor to Quebec Doctors for the public system
Jenilee-Sarah Napoleon, psychologist, acting vice-president secretary of the Coalition of psychologists of the Quebec public network
Noémie La Haye-Caty, resident physician and advisor to Quebec Doctors for the public system
Youssef Allami, psychologist, administrator of the Coalition of psychologists of the Quebec public network
Élise Girouard-Chantal, medical resident and advisor to Quebec Doctors for the public plan
Xavier Gauvreau, medical student and adviser to Quebec Doctors for the public system
Loredana Marchica, psychologist, head of communications for the Coalition of Psychologists of the Quebec Public Network
Lauréanne Dussault-Desrochers, medical resident and advisor to Quebec Doctors for the public plan
Marc-André Pinard, psychologist, administrator of the Coalition of psychologists of the Quebec public network
Camille Pelletier Vernooy, resident physician and advisor to Quebec Doctors for the public plan
Joanie Tremblay-Pouliot, physician and advisor to Quebec Doctors for the public plan
Pierre Fontaine, medical student and adviser to Quebec Doctors for the public system
Geneviève Richer, psychologist
Juliette Monnier, medical student involved in the community
Valérie Labbé, pediatrician
Sébastien Trinh, psychologist
Stéphanie Sylvain-Roy, neuropsychologist
Jean-François Tourigny, resident physician and advisor to Quebec Doctors for the public system
Catherine Chapados, neuropsychologist
Céline L’Ecuyer, producer and scriptwriter of the film desviesvivivre.ca
Christian Lafleur, producer and screenwriter of the film desviesvivivre.ca
Isabelle Corriveau, neuropsychologist
Cinzia Marchica, doctor in Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery
Danit Nitka, psychologist
Annie Rousseau, psychologist

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