Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitoba's shortage of psychologists affects mental health

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There is no health without mental health, according to the World Health Organization. And yet access to the services of psychologists is difficult to obtain in our first-world nation, and specifically here in Manitoba.

The national average for the number of psychologists available per 100,000 people in Canada is 47.

The number of psychologists available for the same number of people in Manitoba is 20. That is one psychologist for every 5,000 people.

This ratio reflects all of the psychologists (private and public sector) available in Manitoba. The majority of psychologists in Manitoba work in a private setting, and thus the actual number of psychologists available within the public health-care system is far more dismal than the startling ratio noted above.

Of course, funding is always a concern to a government when it comes to choosing which services to provide to the public. As a civilization, we should collectively put our financial resources towards the most pressing issues we face.

An antiquated thought might be that our physical health is more important than our mental. But long gone are the days and beliefs that would suggest our mental health is "just feelings."

We know for a fact there is a strong link between our mental health, our physical health, and the quality of our lives.

Recent research suggests that one in five Canadians is diagnosed with a mental illness. I assure you this is a conservative number as other studies would suggest higher numbers when looking at overall lifetime prevalence.

Even newer research suggests the impact mental illness has on disability is 1.5 times greater than that of all cancers and seven times that of all infectious diseases.

The World Health Organization predicts depression alone (only one of many mental illnesses) will become the second-leading cause of disability in the world, for all ages and both genders by 2020.

And yet, the number of psychologists available to the citizens of Manitoba more greatly reflects the resources of a developing nation, than a first-world country such as Canada. As a society, we are clearly not paying attention to an awakening giant.

It is due to this disparity in resources that the Manitoba Psychological Society is launching the Mind Your Mental Health Campaign (www.mymh.ca).

This website provides information on mental health and a link to our letter writing campaign to let the Manitoba government know that access to psychological services is critical for the health of Manitoba citizens, and that they would like increased access to these services in the public health care system. Let government know that psychological services are not a privilege, they are a right.

 

Rehman Abdulrehman has a doctorate in clinical psychology and is president of the Manitoba Psychological Society.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 13, 2013 A11

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