OAMHP Applauds Ontario Government’s Mental Health Initiatives

OAMHP Applauds the Government of Ontario’s Mental Health Initiatives Announced this Week (May 1-7)

May 5, 2023

During the 2023 Mental Health Week, the government of Ontario announced significant supports for the mental health and well-being of the province’s children & youth – as well as for Indigenous communities.

The Ministry of Education announced measures and additional funding to strengthen mental health learning and supports in the classroom by introducing mandatory mental health literacy resources to grades 7, 8, and 10. The Ministry of Health also announced additional funding to expand access to mental health and addictions programs and services for Indigenous peoples and their families.

The Ontario Association of Mental Health Professionals (OAMHP) are pleased to see the government recognize and support the mental health needs of our Indigenous communities, children and youth. We look forward to hearing further details of the funding announcement in the coming days.

The mental health and well-being of our children and Indigenous communities is crucial, and providing additional funding and supports is an important step. This issues highlights concerns that OAMHP has long been focused on 

Psychologists and Psychological Associates* are essential supports in school mental health

It is crucial to recognize that Psychologists, Psychological Associates, as well as many other mental health providers (such as School Social Workers and supervised providers of psychological services) are a vital contingent of the mental health professionals who are providing psychological services in schools.

For years, there have consistently been unfilled vacancies in school board psychology positions - roles which regulated Psychological Associates and Psychologists can fill. In order to improve mental health supports in diverse communities, it is time to better recognize and integrate RPs into community supports and offerings. 

Health human resources and other barriers are still a major challenge to delivering these goals

We recognize and applaud the additional funding being earmarked for these initiatives, including supporting the changes to curriculum to encourage mental health literacy.

There also remains the fact that many barriers exist that prevent mental health professionals from practicing to the fullest of their abilities and contributing to schools and organizations that provide mental health supports (e.g., punitive financial barriers, regulatory threats to practicing, and biases towards specific types of mental health professionals).

A coherent approach is needed

Resolving this crisis is not just about how much we invest but also about how we invest in mental health and how everyone works together for the benefit of Ontario’s diverse populations. School-based mental health supports must complement and coordinate with community-based services and hospital-provided care.

Likewise, the provision of funding directed to community agencies (particularly those supporting Indigenous communities) is vital, as they are open year-round and receive significant cases of individuals needing mental health supports. 

We applaud the work of MPP Natalie Pierre in bringing this issue of children’s mental health supports to the forefront of government attention and action - and for continuing to shine a spotlight on this crisis.

We hope that the government of Ontario will support the additional related concerns and suggestions raised herein. We are confident that, with the hard-won lessons of the pandemic, we can work together to resolve this crisis. 

*The term “Psychologist” in this text refers both to doctoral-level Psychologists and masters-level “Psychological Associates”. For information on the extensive training required to become a registered Psychologist or Psychological Associate, please see: https://cpo.on.ca/resources/faqs/

For more information:

Maryann Istiloglu, Executive Director, OAMHP mistiloglu@oamhp.ca 

Liana Palmerio-McIvor, RP, (cert-S) OAMHP, President, OAMHP  president@oamhp.ca 

Caroline Koekkoek, M.A. C.Psych, Board Member, OAMHP; former President of Ontario Association of Psychological Associates