MOOSE JAW, Sask. – Saskatchewan doctors say there are a “staggering” number of people in the province with mental-health issues who need more help.
The Saskatchewan Medical Association says one in five people, or almost 230,000, are struggling with mental illness or addictions.
“I think that comes as a big surprise to us, too, as a medical association, because you would never imagine it being quite a problem, which is to this degree,” association president Dr. Mark Brown said Thursday.
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Brown, who is a family doctor in Moose Jaw, says the number includes children suffering from depression or anxiety.
It’s not just teenagers, but also young kids, he said.
“It’s very sad and it needs to be addressed and I think that one of the biggest problems we have in Saskatchewan is access to mental health for children.”
But he says long wait times, a shortage of specialists and increasing patient needs have led to significant gaps in the care available.
The association says psychiatrists are in short supply in Saskatchewan.
It estimates that at least 50 psychiatrists will be needed by 2023 and says recruiting more medical students into psychiatry resident positions needs to be a priority.
“Mental health is an extremely sad problem to have in a society, but what would be even more sad is if there are people out there suffering – which we know there are – who don’t know where to go for help, who can’t access help and who feel helpless from that point of view,” said Brown.
The association notes that a report commissioned by the Saskatchewan government detailing a 10-year mental health and addictions action plan was released in December 2014.
It has yet to be acted upon by the government, said the doctor’s group.
Brown says doctors are speaking out because they want political leaders in the provincial election to talk about mental health. The association does not endorse any one political party.
Earlier in the campaign, the doctors called for better ways to care for seniors and for more tobacco control, including regulations for electronic cigarettes.