Faced with growing mental health needs, psychologists in the regions are at the end of their resources to respond to calls for help. Across Quebec, more than 200 municipalities have less than 1 point of service per 1,000 inhabitants and some 800 of them simply have none, reveals an analysis of the Duty. And it is access to essential health care that takes a hit.
“There are really a lot of needs” in the “Haut-du-Lac”, notes Laura Nadeau, a psychologist recently installed in Dolbeau-Mistassini, in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean. There are only nine psychologists’ offices in the two major cities in the area, Dolbeau-Mistassini and Saint-Félicien, according to data from the Order of Psychologists of Quebec. She receives “three or four follow-up requests per week” since she settled in the country of blueberries, in July 2022, but can only accommodate about twenty patients per week. “It’s really not possible to meet all these requests,” she says.
Result: the distress accumulates and the problems become “chronic”, she laments. “What we are seeing is that it is passed down from generation to generation,” she said. Someone who has difficulty regulating their emotions, it becomes difficult to show their children how to regulate their emotions. We see that it continues. »
The location data of members of the Order of Psychologists of Quebec analyzed by The duty reveal that only 120 municipalities, or only one in ten across the province, have more than one psychologist’s office per 1,000 inhabitants. For example, in Saint-Félicien, there are only 3 psychologists’ offices for 10,000 inhabitants, and in Dolbeau-Mistassini, there are only 6 for 14,000 residents.
According to Réjean Simard, who practices in Saint-Prime, a few minutes from Saint-Félicien, it is not uncommon for patients to have to go to Alma, Saguenay or even Quebec City, a three-hour drive away, to get a quick follow-up. “The need is crying out,” he says bluntly. And the need is likely to increase over the next few years.
According to Mr. Simard, who has already been a representative of the Order of Psychologists in the sector, several professionals are retiring, which is accelerating the shortage phenomenon. “Me, I also think that at some point, I will take it. So I work a little less, ”he illustrates.
“The shortage forces us to work differently,” admits Réjean Simard, who believes that telepractice has come to put a bandage on a long-standing problem. From his offices in Saint-Prime, the Jeannois psychologist can carry out consultations with people from elsewhere – when he has space. “But of course it’s not ideal. The ideal is for the person to come into the office,” he says.
The public network is also struggling to keep up: there are several vacancies for psychologists in the region, particularly in Dolbeau, Alma and Roberval. “There is a good will from the government, which opens several positions in the network, but there are some that remain vacant for years,” laments Karine Gauthier, president of the Coalition of Psychologists of the Quebec Public Network. The solution, in his opinion, lies in better working conditions, and possibly in the addition of a bonus for positions in remote regions.
To other cities
The situation is just as problematic in the Bas-Saint-Laurent. In Matane, there are only 4 psychologists’ offices for 14,000 inhabitants, only one of which works in the private sector. In Amqui, a neighboring town, there are only 3 for the approximately 6,000 residents. The small municipality was shaken by a tragedy last March when a driver ran into pedestrians, killing three of them and traumatizing hundreds of residents.
“In the feeling, it was very heavy as an atmosphere”, remembers the only psychologist who practices privately in Amqui, Amélie Painchaud. The drama was a “trigger for more anxiety” in her city, she explains. However, the supply of services has not increased. Despite the support of certain professionals from other disciplines, he sometimes has to refer clients to other cities. “We need reinforcements,” says the Amquian psychologist.
As of 1er April 2023, more than 20,000 people are still waiting for mental health service, according to the Department of Health dashboard. Called to react to data from the Dutythe Minister responsible for Social Services, Lionel Carmant, reiterated that it is by relying on an “interdisciplinary approach” that Quebec would resolve the mental health crisis that is plaguing it.
“While sometimes a person’s situation requires the services of a psychologist or psychiatrist, in other cases, the care of a psychoeducator, a social worker, an occupational therapist or another mental health professional s proves to be the appropriate solution,” his office said in a written statement. The addition of local services in the CLSCs is also part of the solution, he specified.