Where to Start
Accessing health care for mental health issues can be confusing and there is a lot of information out there to sift through if you don’t know where to start. If you’ve decide you want some the first thing that you should do is make an appointment with you family doctor, or if you don’t have a family doctor with a local health clinic.
If you are from Thunder Bay and are unsure of where the local clinic are we have a list here that you can check to find the closest one to you. If you are new to Thunder Bay and need to locate a health clinic, www.211ontario.ca allows you to seach for services, here is a link to their list of walk in clinics. It’s important to make an appointment with a GP because there are diseases such as hypothyroidism which can mimic the symptoms of many mental illnesses. A GP will also be able to refer you to a psychiatrist if that is needed.
Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist
While the terms are used interchangeably there are key differences between psychologists and psychiatrists. A psychiatrist is someone who has gone through medical school and residency and chosen to specialize in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. They are also able to prescribe medication. In almost all cases you will need a referal to see a psychiatrist, and their fees will be covered by provincial health plans.
A psychologist is someone who has either a masters or doctoral degree in psychology, and are trained in assessing, diagnosing and treating mental health problems. Psychologists cannot prescribe medication, though they will often work with your GP to come up with the proper medication if it is needed. When a psychologist is employed by a public institution like a hospital or a school their fees are covered by the public health system, when they practice in the community they are not covered by the public health system but most private insurance plans will cover their fees to some extent. If you are a Lakehead student and are covered under the LUSU Health plan then psychologist visits are covered for up to $20 per visit with a maximum of $300 per year. If you are unsure whether or not you are covered under the LUSU health plan see their website here for more details and contact information.
If you want to find a psychologist in your area and are unsure where to look the website Mind Your Mental Health has a page with details of what websites to look on for each province in Canada, as well instructions on how to use the websites and phone numbers where applicable. You can check out their webpage here.
Clinical Social Worker
Clinical social workers provide the majority of counseling and psychotherapy services in Ontario and work in a variety of settings on individual, group, community and organizational levels. Like psychologists, clinical social workers can assess, diagnose, and treat individual mental health issues, but they are distinguished from psychiatrists and psychologists in their treatment orientation. Social workers operate from a person-in-environment perspective, which takes into consideration intersecting factors, such as race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, marital status, gender, ability, age, socioeconomic status, and education, which contribute to an individual’s unique experience. Depending on individual treatment needs, a clinical social worker will take an eclectic approach when offering services to clients, often incorporating a variety of possible therapies, for treatment, as well as psychoeducation and advocacy. Social workers encourage a collaborative relationship with their clients, and emphasize the importance of finding client strengths to help individuals feel empowered in overcoming their problems and concerns.
Clinical social workers cannot prescribe medication for treatment, but they can work collaboratively, with your doctor, who can prescribe medication to aid in the psychotherapy/counseling process. You do not need a referral to see a clinical social worker, but your doctor may be able to help connect you to someone practicing in your community. Clinical social workers often advertise their services online– you can use findasocialworker.ca to access a directory of clinical social workers, who work in private practice.
In private practice settings, clinical social workers’ services are not covered by provincial health plans, but they are often covered by individual and group health insurance. However, social workers work in a variety of settings and their services are often without cost when provided at publically funded organizations (hospitals, schools, etc.) or non-profit agencies.
Resources – Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay Counselling Centre is a safe place to work through addiction and mental health issues.
They offer online counseling
(see here http://www.tbaycounselling.com/counselling/online-counselling/ for more details)
Also have a walking in counselling clinic every Wednesday 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm (last session begins at 6:30pm) at the following locations:
- 1st and 3rd Wednesday of every month at Thunder Bay Counselling Centre – 544 Winnipeg Avenue
- 2nd and 4th Wednesday of every month at Children’s Centre Thunder Bay – 283 Lisgar Street
The Canadian Mental Health Association has local branches in many cities across Canada. There is a branch located in Thunder Bay, they have there own website which lists the different services they provide; http://thunderbay.cmha.ca
With an Open Mind is a Thunder Bay specific website dedicated to public education about Mental Health for the Thunder Bay region. The have a list of local agencies you can call here.
Ontario has a website “Mental Health Helpline” which is run by the provincial government. On the site there is a phone number to call about services in your area, or if you cannot talk on the phone there is also a webchat available where you can talk with a referral specialist in a private chatroom. They also maintain a directory of the services available in Ontario.
Mind Your Mind is a website directed at youth (14-24) with a focus on education and connecting people with resources. The site contains information on how to get help, personal stories from people who have struggled with mental illness, apps for distressing, and much more.