Strong Majority of British Columbians Want Improved Access to Psychologists

British Columbia and provinces across Canada increasingly recognize the importance of mental health to the success of their citizens, economies and societies.  The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a significant burden on our mental health and wellbeing, making the need for timely access to mental health care even more urgent.

The British Columbia Psychological Association (BCPA) in partnership with the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) and the Council of Professional Associations of Psychology (CPAP) asked Nanos Research to survey over 400 B.C. residents to better understand how they perceive the role of psychologists, the barriers and solutions to accessing care, and the quality of care they receive.

“This survey highlights the importance British Columbians place on their mental health and the value they place on psychologists”, said Alexina Picard, Operations Manager of the B.C. Psychological Association.  Canadians are clear that Canada needs innovative and sustainable solutions across the public and private sectors that will improve timely access to evidence-based mental health care for people who need it.

The survey found:

Role of Psychology

  • A strong majority of British Columbians had confidence in the mental health care that psychologists provide.
  • A majority of British Columbians perceived psychologists as being effective in diagnosing,  treating and helping people with specific mental health problems like depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, dementia, addiction, and the stress of being diagnosed with a disease.  

Barriers to Access Care

  • British Columbians reported on the barriers in accessing the services of a psychologist:  
  • 77% of British Columbians reported that the cost of psychological services was too high for them to pay for themselves and a majority (74%) noted that the services of psychologists were not covered by B.C. health plans or employer’s health benefit plans (65%).
  • 66% of British Columbians said that wait times to see a psychologist were too long.
  • 49% of British Columbians said that preferring to deal with these problems/disorders on their own is a very significant or somewhat significant barrier.
  • 53% of British Columbians said not wanting others to know they are seeing a psychologist is a very significant or somewhat significant barrier.

Solutions to Improve Access to Care

  • Almost 9 out of 10 British Columbians (87%) supported improving access to psychologists through the publicly-funded health care system.
  • 81% of British Columbians said psychologists working collaboratively with other health professionals, such as a family physician in primary care teams, is a very good or good idea.
  • 73% of British Columbians thought that better access (more funded mental health care services and higher financial caps) to psychologists through their employer health benefit plan was a very good or good idea.
  • 70% of Canadians say they are willing or somewhat willing to use technology to receive mental health care from a psychologist.

The results of this survey definitively show that Canadians and British Columbians want to access high quality health services from psychologists, but struggle to do so. Given the dearth of public or employer-based access, this should come as no surprise. Thankfully, there are many ways for psychologists to be creatively and cost-effectively integrated into our public health system, and these changes are broadly supported by the public.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reached beyond our physical health and we are likely to feel its psychological and social impacts for some time to come.  We must invest and protect our most valuable assets…people.  There is no health without mental health.  The Canadian Psychological Association and the B.C. Psychological Association are committed to working collaboratively with government, employers and insurers to ensure that British Columbians receive evidence-based care when they need it. Moreover, we now have the technology to provide private and confidential video based psychological care, increasing access to residents.

“The bottom line: patients benefit from psychologists being a part of their care team. Doctors benefit from the collaborative care and it improves their own well-being. And it saves the government money across time.” Dr. Lesley Lutes, director of public advocacy, BCPA.

The time to act is now.

To review the results in detail – which includes a breakdown by province and territories, gender and age, please go to the CPA’s website:  https://cpa.ca/covid-19-worsening-canadians-access-to-psychologists/

  

Contact: Alexina Picard, alexina.picard@psychologists.bc.ca

 

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