Mental problems | A childhood in the mist

The data is unequivocal: serious psychological problems are on the rise among young people in Quebec. Unfortunately, younger and younger children are affected. Among young people under the age of 14, there is a 28% increase in the use of antidepressants between 2019 and 2021. A particularly striking phenomenon in boys 9 years and younger and girls 10 years and older.

Posted at 12 noon

Karine Gauthier

Karine Gauthier
Psychologist-neuropsychologist, president of the Quebec Public Network’s Coalition of Psychologists, and five other signatories*

These children are prescribed antidepressants because they can no longer go to school, sleep, eat or even play. A part of their childhood is stolen from them and does not come back to them.

Too often we welcome young people whose parents, teacher, social worker, or doctor had sought the input of a psychologist long before the choice of antidepressants was necessary because of a major outage. † But psychologists, unlike mental health problems, are becoming increasingly rare in our education and health networks. This leads to far too long waiting times. This makes the fog thicker around the child and his family.

Shouldn’t we as a society do everything we can to offer children an alternative treatment to antidepressants, or psychotherapy? Even when antidepressants are prescribed, it is advisable to combine them with psychotherapy.

This is what Doctor Gilles Julien explained on February 11, 2022 in the gallery “The side effects of antidepressants cannot be taken lightly. They should be prescribed after an extremely strict diagnosis, always in combination with psychotherapy. In Quebec, 80% of professionals authorized to practice psychotherapy are psychologists.

Antidepressants do not allow the child and his family to learn to find meaning in their inner world, to tame the fears that overtake them, to endure suffering, to live more peacefully with their traumas or their loss.

Long term effects

Little is known about the long-term effects of such drugs on such a young brain and body. Some suggest potential risks in terms of growth, bone density or type II diabetes. There are also many question marks as to possible withdrawal from such medication started so young; not to mention the potential side effects. Far be it from us to throw a stone at the doctors who prescribe them: they often have no other choice because fewer and fewer psychologists can be accessed quickly and for free in the public network. Parents, for their part, do their best to help their child.

The contrast between this disturbing information and the solutions proposed by Minister Lionel Carmant is of great concern to us. His usual response that he relies on interdisciplinarity to solve the problems of mental health access ignores the need to take action to attract and retain psychologists in our public network. Of course all professionals are indispensable, but why does Minister Carmant refuse to address the serious shortage of psychologists?

Within two years, the Ministry of Health and Social Services estimates that there will be a shortage of more than 40% of psychologists in the health network, as the latter choose to work in the private sector.

We often hear about “the right service at the right time”. However, this concept is difficult to apply because it is often necessary to wait up to two years to access the services of a psychologist in the network. Too often it is the most vulnerable children who pay the price.

Minister Carmant, urgent action is needed! We are waiting for a call from you to resume our discussions. Closing the door on solutions to improve access to psychologists and neuropsychologists in the public network is unacceptable. The consequences for our children and for society are far too great.

* Co-signers: Catherine Serra Poirierpsychologist, vice president of the Quebec Public Network Coalition of Psychologists; Jenilee Sarah Napoleonpsychologist, administrator of the Quebec Public Network Coalition of Psychologists; Youssef Allamipsychologist, administrator of the Quebec Public Network Coalition of Psychologists; Beatrice Filionpsychologist, vice president secretary of the Coalition of Psychologists of the Quebec Public Network; Connie Scuccimarricpsychologist, administrator of the Coalition of Psychologists of the Quebec Public Network

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