2018.12.14

  1. Case Study of 1 by Alex Press

  2. This is a horrific story of the US healthcare system. It’s a familiar story to a lot of Americans, I’m sure. But I know a lot of Canadians like me are reading this, too. Canada is so intertwined with America, and I grew up with many assumptions based on what was happening in the US, not Canada. The news from that country often drowns out our own.

  3. I want Canadians to know that finding help for mental illness is easier than this case study. It’s not easy, but easier. Here’s how I did it (in White Rock, BC).

  4. I looked up my local mental health unit online. It was, serendipitously, in the hospital in my neighbourhood.

  5. I called the number I found. It turned out to be the crisis line, but the operator gave me the one I needed. I called and asked for help.

  6. I got an appointment for an assessment with a nurse. We, rather, I talked for about an hour. She said, “You definitely have depression and anxiety,” and a part of the 15-year weight lifted off my shoulders.

  7. She suggested I go to a clinic if I wanted to try medication (I did), but warned me I would need a regular doctor to continue with antidepressants. I went to the walk-in clinic that day, got a prescription for escitalopram (I think a month cost $7), and started taking it the next morning.

  8. She also referred me to group therapy. I started a few weeks later, a once a week meeting at the same place with about 6 other people and a facilitator.

  9. I went through that system for almost two years, doing 4-12 week stretches in different programs.

  10. I need to make something clear at the point: I did not pay for any visits. Every meeting with a healthcare professional, every therapy session was free, completely covered by my government insurance. I make about $15k a year, firmly in the bottom tax bracket, and I pay no premiums.

  11. Once I found a GP (my family had not had a regular doctor in decades), I wanted to try medication again. Prescriptions are not covered by the government. I have no healthcare through my job. My first month of venlafaxine cost $14. The dose has gone up over the last 8 months, and now a month costs me $35.

  12. After 8 months of experimentation, I have had up and down periods. I have had good weeks and weeks when I sleep too much. The medication is supposed to be working by now, and it is, but not consistently. So my doctor has referred me to a psychiatrist. That was at the end of November.

  13. It’s become so hard to get a regular psychiatrist, my region has created Rapid Access. Your GP can refer you to the system; you get one appointment with a psychiatrist; they send their diagnosis, notes, recommendations back to your GP. Continue as before. Repeat in 6-12 months.

  14. I did a one hour intake interview with a healthcare professional in the psychiatrist’s office over the phone. That was on December 5th. My appointment is on the 20th.

  15. I do not pay for any doctor visits. I only pay for medication. But there is also the invisible cost of time. I’m grateful for a flexible work schedule which lets me get to meetings and appointments. I’m also a white cisgender woman, and I know that privilege helps somewhat when speaking to doctors.

  16. I wish I had known I could do this. I wish someone told me I wouldn’t have to wait months for an appointment or pay hundreds of dollars to talk to a psychiatrist. I wish I knew medical clinics could prescribe antidepressants. I wish I knew how cheap pills can be.

  17. I want you to know so you can find the help you need. It’s hard. I’m not there yet. I don’t know how long it will take to get to a place where I feel good (mostly because I’ve been here for so long, I’m not actually sure I know what good feels like). But I’ve taken a lot of small steps over the last few years, and I’m better than I was before.

  18. I wish that for you, too.