Include Therapy in Canadian Healthcare

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Nearly everyone knows a family member, friend, or co-worker who is dealing with mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. But it's not just the people you know. Anxiety and depression cost the Canadian economy $50 billion dollars a year.

Medication is an effective treatment, but so are lifestyle changes and talk therapy. But therapy delivered by registered psychologists and clinical counsellors are not covered by provincial healthcare - and many people cannot afford to pay out of pocket, especially given the debilitating nature of these illnesses.

Medical literature around the world, from Canada, the United States, to the United Kingdom, support the fact that therapy and counselling is as effective as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. A simple web search will show plenty of other articles and studies to this effect.

This Globe and Mail story, arguing for publicly funded therapy, eloquently states this problem.

"Canadian physicians bill provincial governments $1-billion a year for “counselling and psychotherapy” – one third of which goes to family doctors – a service many of them acknowledge they are not best suited to provide, and that doesn’t come close to covering patient need."

"Imagine if a Canadian diagnosed with cancer were told she could receive chemotherapy paid for by the health-care system, but would have to cough up the cash herself if she needed radiation."

It goes on and on about the medical, financial, and social consequences that this gap in our healthcare system causes. There isn't a perfect solution, but many other countries in the world with universal healthcare address better address this issue. Even most medical plans in the United States require similar coverage for mental health and physical illness, thanks to federal legislation passed in 2008.

True, many companies have extended health plans that cover psychologists and counsellors. But that's extremely inequitable for the small-business owners, part-time employees, and others who don't or can't have these benefits.

For those who have access, that's not even enough. The typical employee extended health coverage is $200-600 per medical practitioner per year. The standard rate for psychotherapy, according to the BC Association of Registered Psychologists, is $190-200 per 50 minute session. For counsellors, it's $120-125. It's pretty easy to add up the numbers and see that it's nowhere close to enough.

That's why I think we should add therapy and counselling into the public healthcare system as an additional option for treatment of mental health disorders.

If this cause is even remotely important to you, please take a minute to share this petition to you friends, family, and anyone in your network. This can be on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and other social media platforms. The more awareness is out there, the better the chance that we Canadians can enhance one of the most basic tenets of society - healthcare.

In Canada, healthcare is governed by the provinces. So in addition to talking to your Member of Parliament, reach out to your MLA in BC, or your equivalent provincial representative. Speak to your premier and health minister, emphasizing that therapy should be an important part of the healthcare system.

Here are the pages to contact the BC provincial party leaders:

Liberals - Christy Clark

NDP - John Horgan

Greens - Andrew Weaver

Remember how the HST referendum was passed a few years ago? I live in Vancouver, so for any fellow British Columbians, we have an initiative law, where a voter can propose or change a law. If enough of us support this, we can literally change MSP coverage for mental health. Please reach out to me if you have an interest in helping make this happen.

And if you're still here, thanks for reading all the way to the end.