Psychiatrist shortage

A troubling new report out this week shows the growing shortage of Psychiatrists in Ontario is reaching a crisis level.

The report that was released by the Ontario Psychiatric Association reveals a shortage of 200 psychiatrists. By 2030, its expected to grow to 350.

Dr. Karen Saperson, Psychiatry Chair from McMaster University says, “Medical students often make career choices right at the beginning. We need to have curriculum in Psychiatry embedded much earlier on in med school.”

Many current psychiatrists are retiring, and not enough medical students are choosing the field.

Dr. Saperson continues to say, “Research shows that medical students who make their career choices do look at stigma and the stigmatization of mental illness as part of that career choice. And its perhaps a deterrent for some.”

Mohawk College Professor Nick Petrella co-founded the group ‘Mental Health in Motion’ to combat that stigma and get help for students faster. The wait-list for a psychiatrist is anywhere from 2 to 6 months.

Petrella says, “Sometimes a day is too long if someone is truly in crisis and they’re thinking about hurting themselves or someone else.”

Diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety 10 years ago, Petrella knows too well how a day can feel like like a month.

“Upon diagnosis, rather than feel better and seek more and better help, it sent me spiralling and I struggled with suicide for the next few years rather than being open about it and being – I don’t want to say proud – but not ashamed I buried myself and got into a pretty deep hole and hid from everybody around me” says Petrella

The wait-list for a psychologist is not nearly as long, but unlike psychiatrists, they’re not covered by OHIP.

Another big difference between being treated by a psychiatrist vs a psychologist, is that psychiatrists are the only ones who are specialized in not only prescribing psychiatric drugs, but in monitoring them properly during treatment. and while not all those with mental health issues will need medication, for some, it’s vital.

“Certainly prescribing medications is an important part, many of our medications have significant and unpleasant side effects.” says Dr. Saperson.

Petrella says, “There is an emotional component for healthcare providers to the fact the diagnosis of mental health is going up that there’s going to be a lot more work a lot more hours and a lot more patience they’re going to have to see. And I think there’s a fear around that as well.”