The need for improved mental health services in Saskatchewan

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If there were ever a time to flip the system upside down, it’s now. ErikaWittlieb via Pixabay, manipulated by Holly Funk

The mental health system in this province is often inadequate and leaves much to be desired

amanda stapleton, contributor

The mental health system is Saskatchewan is awful. I have been dealing with the mental health system in Saskatchewan since I was a child. My mom took me to two different psychologists to see what I needed help with. I didn’t get diagnosed with anything. After extensive research of my childhood, a psychologist was recently able to tell me I was likely dealing with severe social anxiety (turned into AvPD), ADHD, autism, and bipolar as a child. 

My mom and I dealt with my problems by ourselves. We didn’t have people helping, we didn’t know what was wrong and I was struggling. I couldn’t talk to people without hiding behind my mom, I would never stand up for myself, I would cling onto friends who just used me. 

Sadly, the mental health care system hasn’t gotten any better since I was a child; it’s still trash and needs to be called out. I’ve been to a dozen psychologists/psychiatrists, and most were no help at all. Most just focused on my anxiety since it’s so severe, and they missed all my other diagnoses. I didn’t get diagnosed with ADHD until I was 21, and am still waiting for my autism diagnosis. That’s a long time to deal with problems that affected most if not all of my life without having the information and support I need. 

Throughout school I always thought I was destined to be a failure, working at a dead-end job. I grew up not knowing what was wrong with me. I dropped out, I skipped, I got suspended on purpose. I just hated it, going to school was torture for me because it just reminded me how far behind I was from everyone. I finally graduated at 19 and had to go to Adult Campus to upgrade a lot of classes so I could, maybe, go to university. At 21 – the same year I was diagnosed with ADHD – I finally went to university, finally got my first 80 per cent in a course, and finally felt like I could accomplish something I wanted.

After I got help for my diagnosis, I felt like I could accomplish what I wanted. I want to help people like me. I want to make sure others don’t have to go through what I went through. I want to be a therapist for on-reserve Indigenous people. But this all still feels unattainable at times. Even after 5 years, I’m not on the right dosage of meds. I’m still behind, but not as behind as before. 

My point is that having early intervention is important. So many people can avoid overwhelming frustration, difficulties, and mistakes by getting the proper help they need, but that seems impossible at times in this province. Even when you are able to get an appointment to see someone, people seeking help are constantly swept under the rug. My best friend got told by her general physician that adults and women could not have ADHD. That’s a doctor that’s supposed to be helping people, but instead is putting more barriers in front of us because they haven’t updated their practice and beliefs to reflect current research in their field. 

Not only that, but people are getting turned away from getting inpatient care because they don’t “seem” suicidal enough. A young man named Samwel Uko died recently because of this, and still nothing has changed. Not only me, but multiple people have stories about being turned away. 

It is no secret that Saskatchewan’s mental health care needs a major revamp. It’s sad that we have to deal with so many barriers just to get adequate support. You have to wait months to see a therapist, we don’t have enough incentive to keep good psychiatrists here, and people are getting turned away from emergency just because they don’t have a solid suicide plan. No one needs an actual suicide plan to kill themselves. Suicide can be impulsive, and arguably it is most of the time.

We need to call out the government officials that can control these changes – specifically, Minister Hindley. He is the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and he has the power to change our system. You can contact him at 306-798-9014. It’s not fair that our mental health is brushed under the rug. It’s not fair that we have to deal with doctors telling us its all in our head (well duh!). We need to work on getting better doctors, better inpatient care, and faster access to therapists. We need change now before more lives are lost.

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