(SNN) - Looking across the room most people can pick out a person not having a good day. They can be downcast, tired looking and some what introverted. This can be especially concerning for you when you remember this particular person to be usually bright and cheerful. Some people you know may be too sprite, talk fast or are acting almost too cheerful. Even if they are always in this state, it could be a cause for concern. You may even know a co-worker who complains of lack of sleep on a daily basis, yet still functions as if they have an abundance of energy. Are these people functioning at what we call normal? Or are they suffering from a psychological disorder.
This is a tough call, and in many cases you will not know that your co-worker or family member has a bipolar disorder or even schizophrenia. It would also be fair to say that it would take a person with special training and certification to detect and deal with such a problem. Because according to statistics, one in five people have suffered or are suffering from a mental disorder.
Furthermore, less than 20 percent suffering from a mental disorder have received adequate treatment. One could assume that this lack of treatment is the result of a person neglecting their own health or having no support structure within their family. But to do that would be simply wrong.
In Alberta we have regulations for everything. Traffic regulations, property controls, city bylaws, utility regulations, and federal regulation. We pretty much live in a society where many believe that the government has it all under control. We, although too much, trust the authorities. A doctor can prescribe a medication and you will take that medication without question, because he or she is a physician. They are educated and our government has certified them as being able to deal with our problems. You have a toothache, you go to the dentist. Again, you open your mouth wide as a man with a power drill drives the bit into your mouth. We trust that person, because they have a certificate on the wall stating that they have read the owners manual for the drill and the government has vetted them, clearing them to provide treatment. If we are honest with ourselves, we truly believe that the authorities have ensured that professionals are adequate, and talented to deal with our problems. … Yes?
Not so with mental health. Until Alberta introduced the Health Professions Act (H.P.A.), there was little in Alberta to identify and certify a person as being adequate to dispense psychological help. But, the presence of this act can fill us with a false sense of security because of the art of language. You see, even with this regulation the term, “Psychotherapist” is not protected under this act. The H.P.A. does not address the term psychotherapist, which refers to the treatment of mental disorders as psychosocial intervention and identifies specific groups of people that can dispense psychosocial intervention. Those are social workers, dietitians, licensed practical nurses, psychologists, registered psychiatric nurses and physicians. On the surface it seems that the Alberta government has it completely covered.
But they don't. This issue came to my attention from a good friend who had a need to seek help for someone with bipolar disorder. Seeking a therapist, she found a psychotherapist and was surprised to find out that this person was a practicing mystic. And, according to Alberta Connects, it was legal for this person to hold themselves out as a psychotherapist. “Thank you for your query to Alberta Connects. While a number of professional titles are protected and reserved for the use of regulated health professionals in Alberta, the title "psychotherapist" is not one of them", came the answer.
This loophole is something that needs to be re-addressed in the H.P.A., and regulated in order to ensure that people don't fall into a case of mismanagement of psychotherapy. Would it be fair to assume that if your neighbour takes an online training course on counseling, they can print up 500 business cards, hang up a shingle and hold themselves out as a psychotherapist? This opens this field of treatment to abuses which can in turn cause more anxiety or even peril for the patient.
People with depression can be driven to suicide. Every two out of three people who have committed suicide have sought help the month prior. The elderly are at most risk of suicide as a result of depression, as one fourth of total suicides are committed by the elderly. Because the general public recognize the word psychotherapist as a person who is trained and certified to deal with the mental health of an individual, someone seeking treatment is in danger of not getting the help they need. This can put the person as well as their family and friends in harms way.
This shortfall is serious, and if our government wants to maintain the trust of the people, more care and attention to details need to be taken when introducing regulations in Alberta.
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