PsychologyMonthPosterENFebruary is Psychology month – a chance for people across the country to become more aware of the field of psychology and the role psychologists play in the community.

And what better time to actively keep the conversation going. The #LetsTalk campaign last week has mental health top of mind and with Christmas over a month behind us and spring more than a month away it’s an important time to reach out and remember to connect.

To kick off the conversation here’s a bit more information about what psychology is and what psychologists do. In Canada, the professionals who most commonly treat people with mental health issues are psychologists and psychiatrists.

Among the general public there can be confusion between the two professions. In Canada a psychiatrist must be licensed to practise medicine and have a specialist certification in psychiatry.

Psychologists are highly trained and hold either a Master’s or Doctoral (PhD) degree in Psychology, which involves anywhere from 6 to 12 years of university study into how people think, feel and behave. Using this specialized knowledge psychologists help people better understand, explain, and change their behavior. They work with families and individuals to overcome or manage their problems using a variety of evidence based treatments. Psychologists are uniquely trained to use psychological tests to help with assessment and diagnosis of behavioural and mental disorders.

Specifically here in Nova Scotia, psychologists are regulated by the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology (NSBEP) which makes sure professional psychologists are registered with them and deliver competent, ethical and professional services. Others titles, like “psychotherapist” and singular terms such as “counsellor” and “therapist”, are not licensed titles in Nova Scotia.

Psychology is a profession but also a science and a means of promoting human welfare.

Why Psychologists are Important:

  • 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
  • Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
  • Almost one half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem.
  • Suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15-34 year old Canadians, second only to accidents.
  • It is estimated that 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder
  • In Canada, only 1 out of 5 children who need mental health services receives them.
  • Once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80% of people who are affected, allowing them to get back to their regular activities.

Breaking Down the Stigma:

Psychologists and all members of the community have an important role to play in breaking down barriers to diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and supporting mental health. The important thing to remember is that mental illnesses can be and is treated effectively every day.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that the economic cost of mental health problems and illnesses is over $50 billion each year. The annual per capita health and disability costs of depression are greater than those associated with hypertension, and comparable to those associated with heart disease, diabetes and back problems. Because a complex interplay of genetic, biological, personality and environmental factors lead to mental health issues and illnesses it can be difficult to predict who will be affected. Over the next month let’s help increase awareness among your friends, family and the general public about mental health and how to support it. By helping more people understand the issues and importance of psychological topics and disorders we can help prevent, manage and treat them as well as get mental health help to those in need.

Written for Dr. Pure and Associates by Meredith O’Hara