The data is unequivocal: serious psychological problems are on the rise among young people in Quebec. Unfortunately, younger and younger children are affected. Under 14s and under, there is a 28% increase in antidepressant use between 2019 and 2021. A particularly striking phenomenon in boys 9 years and younger and girls 10 years and older.
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 help of a psychologist long before the choice of antidepressants was necessary because of a major outage. But psychologists, unlike mental health issues, 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 be able 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 Dr Gilles Julien explained on February 11, 2022 (La Tribune): “We cannot take the side effects of antidepressants 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 understand their inner world, to tame the fears that overtake them, to tolerate suffering, to live more peacefully with their traumas or their loss.
Little is known about the long-term effects of such drugs on such a young brain and body. Some suggest possible 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. In addition, psychologists are by far the hardest-to-reach professionals, according to a recent study by the College of Physicians.
The contrast between this disturbing information and the solutions proposed by Minister Carmant is of great concern to us. His usual response to the effect that he relies on interdisciplinarity to solve the problems of access to mental health care ignores the need to take action to attract and retain psychologists in our public network.
Of course all professionals are essential, 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 to solutions aimed at improving access to psychologists and neuropsychologists in the public network is unacceptable. The consequences for our children and for society are far too great.
Join our big mental health rally on May 29 at 1:00 PM in Montreal’s Square Dorchester (corner of Peel and René-Levesque) to demand greater access to psychologists and neuropsychologists in the public network! Our ambassador, Florence K, will be there!
dr. Karine Gauthier, MP, Ph.D., psychologist/neuropsychologist, president of the Quebec Public Network’s Coalition of Psychologists
dr. Catherine Serra Poirier, Psy.D, Ph.D., psychologist, liaison vice president of the Coalition of Psychologists of the Quebec Public Network
dr. Jenilee-Sarah Napoleon, M.Sc., Ph.D., psychologist, administrator of the Coalition of Psychologists of the Quebec Public Network
dr. Youssef Allami, Ph.D., Psychologist, Administrator of the Coalition of Psychologists of the Quebec Public Network
dr. Béatrice Filion, Psy,D, Psychologist, Vice-President Secretary of the Coalition of Psychologists of the Quebec Public Network
dr. Connie Scuccimarri, doctoral psychologist, administrator of the Quebec Public Network’s Coalition of Psychologists