At the end of this National Suicide Prevention Week, we would like to stress the urgency for the government to adopt the necessary measures in order to face the current crisis among our young people.
Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen an exacerbation of mental health problems among young people. According to a study carried out by Mélissa Généreux in Estrie and Mauricie – Center-du-Québec, 48% of young people between the ages of 12 and 25 say they have symptoms compatible with generalized anxiety disorder or major depression. Among college and university students, this proportion rises to 58%.
High costs to consult
Although some schools offer students the possibility of paying out sums to benefit from insurance that partially covers the costs of a consultation with a psychologist, these insurances are insufficient. Indeed, while the costs of a consultation amount to more than $ 110 per hour, school insurance generally offers an amount of $ 50 for 10 consultations. This discourages young people from using the services of professionals, despite their worrying situation.
However, it should not be forgotten that the issue of mental health among young people is a persistent problem that required immediate attention long before the current pandemic. We must also keep in mind that even when the pandemic is behind us, the long-term effects on the psychological health of young people will still be felt.
On November 2, 2020, Minister Lionel Carmant announced the investment of $ 35 million, a non-recurring amount, to facilitate the purchase of mental health services.
Of this amount, $ 10 million is planned to meet the needs of college and university students. This amount is far from sufficient to meet all of the needs that affect the entire student community and all young people.
The government must do more
In addition, we must note that the last few months have been marked by the good intentions of the government without these being accompanied by sufficient measures. The last week has demonstrated the government’s lack of consistency in the area of mental health: government hesitation about the future of the Center of Excellence in Mental Health and the discovery that the government committee responsible for evaluating the precise portrait labor force in psychology has not met since May 2019.
Meanwhile, the psychological health of our young people is deteriorating. Several avenues are however available.
Programs have already been put in place in Ontario, Manitoba and the United Kingdom to significantly increase access to psychological health care.
In 2017, the government launched the Quebec program for mental disorders: from self-care to psychotherapy. 4 years later, we are still waiting to see this project materialize when the situation is only getting worse.
The initiatives put in place by the last two governments represent an option that can respond to the current crisis, but these initiatives still need to have the means for their ambitions and be sustained.
We are also entitled to obtain information from the government, which seems to avoid at all costs informing us of the progress of its initiatives.
While the government has set up an advisory committee to determine the measures to be put in place for our university and college students, it is essential that the establishment of a program that responds quickly and effectively to the needs of all young people are part of it.
So that fine words and pious wishes come to an end and that we take action for the future of our society: our youth.
Vincent Boulay, lawyer and advisor to the National Youth Committee of the Parti Québécois and the executive of the CNJPQ