Why do I have to wait so long to see a psychiatrist in Canada?

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  • Maria De Maria says:

    I’ve been waiting 2 years for some help. I’m a single mother with no support to boot. And it’s getting harder and harder to cope. Especially during this pandemic

  • Sherif says:

    5 years to see a Psychiatrist oh my God wow

  • Al says:

    In Regina, where we had a public incident recently. Psychiatrists can easily be seen as emergency room physicians. Even like a priest before the client dies. Don’t worry, it’s that person, and their history with society. Bad or misguided advice is out there already.

  • jennifer edwards says:

    i am currently faced with a situation i had a psychiateriest in a hospital and he resigned. now i am left without a psychiaterist and my family doctor can help me from being move out of my existing area where i live in subsidy. what can i do.

  • Susan Spinks says:

    my doctor lied to me to keep me with her

  • Fausto Bartra says:

    I believe only a small percentage of physicians are actually very competent
    Most of times that I have seen Drs, they only talk to you for 3 minutes maximum (they don’t even get close to you), I dont believe that 3 minutes is enough time to come out with a proper assessment, so we have to go back to see them several times.
    Walk-in clinics are the worse.
    Why they can just spend more time on every patient so treatment can be started right the way
    imagine all the time and money that will be saved….

  • Azam Dayyan says:

    How could trust health care system when without any reason for years make you waited and just because can’t diagnose your illness either assume you are lying or it is some type of terminal disease.

    Intrupte your life,block your work ,destroy your family and marriage, is it really definition of health and long term care and safety?
    It was and is my life ,who can answer my question?

  • P Hough says:

    I had excellent psychiatric care while living in Canada. When I moved to the United States the care was practically nonexistent. There was minimal access to an incredibly busy psychiatrist who spent the 10 minute/once every three months visit, writing a prescription for the miracle drug of the day. If you want/need to talk to someone rather than or in addition to downing a bunch of psychotropic drugs, that was pretty easy to find as anyone with a masters degree in the humanities was deemed adequate to help.
    While there are some concerns regarding access to care for new or acute psychiatric cases, modeling Canadas care after another nation or culture may not be the best way to meet these needs and may instead wreak havoc with the stellar level of care that Canada is able to provide under many circumstances.
    Giving more responsibility to family physicians is ridiculous. Perhaps there are certain cases whom, after working with a psychiatrist, could be handled with a knowledgeable family doctor as long as everything remains stable. However, expecting a physician, who has minimal to zero training in psychiatry, to treat and actually diagnose psychiatric disorders is not fair to the patient or the doctor. The only party to benefit from such a dynamic would be the drug companies who just want to sell drugs.
    “Our panel tried hard to be conservative and careful but inadvertently contributed to three false “epidemics” — attention deficit disorder, autism and childhood bipolar disorder. Clearly, our net was cast too wide and captured many “patients” who might have been far better off never entering the mental health system.”—Allen Frances, MD on DSM 5 goes too far in creating new mental disorders

  • Sandy says:

    I so get all these comments, I myself have depression, Mental Health here in B.C. Sure could use a lot of change, yes there are wait list for everything here in other health areas also. I must say when I was in crisis I was admitted to hospital, and they only have a 2 week stay, not long enough to get a person stable for some people, especially if a medication has terrible side effects. And with psychiatrists they don’t keep patients on long term, which is terrible. I’ve seen my doctor longer once or every two weeks, he has tried to be my support and I see a counsellor but they are not trained in psychiatric medications. My doctor put me on a medication that had no tapering down when it was to strong, I suffered for a few years not knowing how to get off this horrible medication and I did go to emerg but the psychiatrists wouldn’t do anything. Finally found a psychiatrist out of town and she switched me to another medication, she said The other one caused mania, my doctor didn’t recognize this. It takes along time to find the right psychiatrist, and she saved me. I see her once a month. See the big problem is family doctors don’t know there psych medications, in my opinion they shouldn’t be giving them to there patients. They need to be adequately trained in psych medications. And the psychiatrists at the hospital don’t know you like your doctor and they don’t communicate if your in hospital. While your in hospital the psychiatrist should be giving updates to the patients doctor. And your family doctor should be making patient visits while your in psychiatric ward, which they don’t here in B.C. They use to years ago, not sure if it’s because in our town we have a new hospital and it’s partly privatized not sure if that has anything to do with it but our health care since the new hospital has gone down the drain.

  • Keith E Turner says:

    Making the Drs. take on more patients would likely result in fewer visits per patient (i.e. follow up) Being familiar with the time lag between meds change and response (if any) poses a problem if proper follow ups are not done.

  • Nicky Pemberton says:

    You don’t want to see a psychiatrist. Psychiatry has no scientific basis and no useful treatments. There have been no advances in psychiatry since the 1950’s. All that psychiatry has to offer is uppers and downers (amphetamines or tranquilizers) all with very serious side-effects. The only way forward is through the anti-psychiatry movement, the purpose of which is to expose psychiatry for its fraudulent and immoral practices.

  • Doreen Gee says:

    I live in Victoria BC and have been trying for 5 years to get a referral to a psychiatrist with no success. Many doctors have tried on my behalf with no luck. It is a horror story here in Victoria. A basic health service for people who need it essentially does not even exist. I feel like I am living in a third world country and I am outraged!

  • Claire says:

    Very shocking article, which proves all the questions I had about this system.
    What is the point of getting care after waiting that long? During relapse, we need help right away instead of ruining months of our lives. I get that Psychiatrists don’t have incentives to new patients but what is their work ethic? The lucky patients who get to see psychiatrists doesn’t even have to do with severity. Also what is the point if you get to see a Psychiatrist but don’t even have chance for follow up? I finally got an appointment with one on Sept, then he prescribed me pills that had extreme side effects. My next follow up was on 2017 Jan. So I just don’t take the additional pills.

    What is the point of these treatment if it does not decrease the painful suffering time to majority of patients?
    Lastly, does GP’s have knowledge on prescribing special pills for complex symptoms?

    • mike says:

      It’s horrible all around. We subsidize a healthcare system that some can benefit from while those of us who fall through the cracks are left to fend for ourselves. If We could save an extra few thousand a year from taxes maybe we could get the help we require. I eat healthy, I exercise regularly so I don’t require dr visits or treatment for negligent diseases but mental issues are something I can’t cure on my own. I don’t go to the doctor for common colds and only went when I broke a bone that only required a cast to fix in my 29 years of life.
      I feel I’m slowly dying from the anguish I experience and know that one day I’ll end up likely taking my life for it to stop. I’ve lost my job and will lose my home when the money runs out. And I’m just one of thousands in this country in this situation.

      Psychologists that I’ve gone to have been mostly duds, they care more about keeping you in treatment and paying their high fees. I had one that bragged about staying out of the cold because he drove from his heated garage to heated garage after I told him how cold it was that day after having to walk to his office in January weather. I know some people have managed to connect with a great psychologist but it seems to take time and money to accomplish as starting over is monetarily and mentally draining.

      I never thought I’d be in this position in my life. I worked hard in life, supported myself through school and have been good to my family and others but life doesn’t care if you’re good. I see how people look at me with pity because they know how I once was and it hurts to know that I may never feel ok again.

  • Marianne A says:

    I just found this article and have experienced ‘selective’ psychiatrists who limit their work load and avoid challenging cases. As a mental health consumer it is demoralizing, frustrating and scary to have diminished capacity and try to advocate for yourself while being shunted around. I truly hope the province takes action to change the way some psychiatrists are running their businesses. This is totally unfair and would never be accepted for any physical illness.

  • Someone who cares says:

    Problem in canada is that as a psychiatrist we try to diagnose and send treatment recommendations but patients don’t want to seek psychotherapy outside of psychiatry as it may require them having to pay. Then they complain and rate us poorly for not seeing them for years. We can’t see people for years and decrease the new patient wait times- pick which you want Canada! The Canadian public needs to be educated on the role of psychiatrists and that when going to a psychiatrist its to get diagnosed and treatment plan recommendations and if there is follow up its short to get them on right path for their family Doctor to follow w therapy from social worker or psychologist.

    • Joseph says:

      Maybe people can’t afford to pay for therapy with MSWs and psychologists.

    • Sandy says:

      Not all family doctors know psych medications, and not everyone have extended health care to see a psychologist. It’s some psychiatrists that won’t see there patient long term. When a medication isn’t working and the side effects are unbarable and your next appointment isn’t for a few months then what is a person to do, when the psychiatrist prescribed it.
      You suffer, not all family phsychians can you get into right away, and sometimes they don’t know what to do either. And then they send you to the emerg at the hospital,you wait hours there, and then you see a psychiatrist they say, who’s your psychiatrist then ask when do you see them next, you tell them, well you will have to see him or her. They don’t know your case or know you, very uncomfortable for the person going through the hoops. It’s a complete cotastraphy, they send you home maybe on a different med now remember they know nothing of your history. Can’t take you off the med your on cause there’s no lower dose for tapering so they give you something on top of the med your already taking that is no good for you. It goes on and on. Then there’s even a bigger problem by the time you see your actual psychiatrist. On top of this you’ve been diagnosed the wrong mental health problem. Mental Health is failing in B.C. It needs to be revamped and major changes the government needs to look into this further. Family doctors are NOT trained in psychiatry quit saying to follow up with your doctor, your just trying to take the load of the psychiatrists, the psychiatrist is a doctor that are suppose to see the more serious patients long term that’s the bottom line, you would send someone to a vet when they are only trained with animals.

    • Mitch Holder says:

      I have been falt out denied in tue ayukon for oblver a decade, several suicide attempts, begging and pleading in tears. You call yourself someone who cares and yet that is the professional opinion you wish to present. If that is the case, it is not a professional I a

      dress now, just another aforementioned ringer waiting in a hospital lobby for your next payout.

  • Vera says:

    My walk-in does treat my GAD but with the Price Baker report coming and forced rostering, which I will refuse to go to, I need to find a psychiatrist for essentially the same care as the walk-in clinic guy has given me for the last 10 years. I cannot find a family physician who will treat me without cancer screening which I refuse to have as the GAD turns screening into an obsession that dominates your thoughts and gives you zero quality of life. I will just go on the waiting list for a psychiatrist and do the 9 month wait and waste resources that way, luckily I can go to Toronto which has the highest supply. Cancer Care Ontario rules the Ministry of Health and makes no exceptions for people who have GAD and cannot obsess about screening and doctors do not make exceptions either, it’s their way or the highway. There is no informed consent.

  • Kawa Ibrahiem says:

    I believe that most of patients referred to Psychiatrist could have been seen, diagnosed and treated by their family doctors. To reverse the course, the ministry focus should shift from Psychiatrists to Family doctors who are willing to get extra-training in Psychiatry to look after their own patient OR opening up more community Psychiatry clinic run by family doctor. I am opening the first such clinic in Waterloo, Ontario by the name of Bridgeport Health. I have been part of the Psychiatry on call group since 2007 and have been involved in outpatient and inpatient care as well as consultation liaison. Most of the patients could have been treated by their family doctor or might need one consultation to clarify diagnosis and recommend medications adjustment.

    • Jennifer says:

      I have been waiting for a counsellor, group therapy, and a psychiatrist since November 2015 and have yet to see any of them and it’s July 22 2016.
      I’m registered in Guelph, Ontario.

    • Rick says:

      I would agree as long as the physicians were properly and adequately trained. My GP almost killed me a few years back by prescribing an antidepressant which put me into full blown mania, which I’d never experienced before. Her response to that was to double the dose and I then ended up in hospital. She completely missed on my diagnosis, even the psychologist I saw afterwards was able to see the mistake she made. Scary. So if GP’s are to treat and prescribe mental health issues, they need the same training as Psychiatrists in my view.


Paul Taylor


Paul Taylor is a health journalist and former Patient Navigation Advisor at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where he provided advice and answered questions from patients and their families. Paul will continue to write occasional columns for Healthy Debate.

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