McGill, News

McGill students seeking psychiatric care at Wellness Hub struggle to get support

Recent discussion threads posted to the McGill subreddit revealed that students seeking to connect with psychiatrists through the Wellness Hub encounter prolonged wait times for appointments and inefficient booking procedures. 

In one post, a user explained that they requested an appointment with a psychiatrist because they needed to renew a prescription. However, they claim they did not receive a response for more than one month after making the initial request and ran out of medication before the appointment was due. In another, a student expressed frustration after repeatedly confronting fully booked time slots while attempting to secure an online appointment for a referral.

In a joint statement from the McGill administration and the Wellness Hub, a McGill media relations officer, Frédérique Mazerolle, noted that wait times for psychiatry appointments via the Wellness Hub are triaged according to their urgency, and can range anywhere from one to two weeks for more urgent cases, to as long as eight to 10 weeks for others.

“Longer wait times for psychiatry are not unique to the Student Wellness Hub,” Mazerolle wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “They are an unfortunate reality throughout Quebec’s public healthcare system and in those of other provinces.”

Ambiguity concerning which situations are considered urgent seems to be a further obstacle for students who request psychiatric care. In an interview with the Tribune, Stella*, U2 Education, said they felt discouraged after seeking a referral for a psychiatrist through the Wellness Hub.

“The first thing they mentioned was that there was going to be a really long delay and that it was going to be complicated to get a referral,” Stella said. “If I had insisted, I think they would have [written] me a referral or helped me get the referral, but it was more like […] a last resort type of thing [….] I felt like I really needed [a referral] before [getting to] that stage.”

Stella added that they eventually received a referral for a psychiatrist after contacting the Wellness Hub and explaining that they felt their situation had worsened. Stella had originally wanted to speak with a female psychiatrist who had experience with 2SLGBTQIA+ issues. However, Stella was told the wait for such a psychiatrist would be an extra two weeks, so they opted for the first available psychiatrist. 

“I would have preferred a woman psychiatrist, someone with a minimum of LGBTQ awareness,” Stella explained. “So in the end I just took [the] first appointment [available]. It was seeing one right away or nothing.”

In an email to the Tribune, Julia Caddy, Students’ Society of McGill University mental health commissioner, noted that students’ perception of psychiatrists as the primary resource for mental health might be preventing some students from receiving more immediate care. 

“The assumption is that a psychiatrist should be the go-to for any discussion regarding medications for mental illness,” Caddy wrote. “However, while psychiatrist shortages persist, Quebec and many other regions in Canada rely on general physicians to provide such consultations and prescriptions, especially during the waiting time to see a specialist. This requires that we shift our understanding of psychiatrist appointments to being primarily for complex care, reassessing prescriptions, and assessment/diagnosis.”

Caddy encourages students to reach out to [email protected] if they want support in getting their mental health needs addressed. 

“That is what we’re here for,” Caddy wrote. “And we are dedicated to holding both systems and individuals accountable.”

*Stella’s name has been changed to preserve their anonymity. 

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