Alberta psychologists are petitioning the provincial government to fund mental health sessions.
 
The petition was started in 2019 by the Expert Psychologists Interagency Clinical network (EPIC), a coalition of agencies including more than 60 private psychologists. EPIC is calling for all Albertans to be able to access provincially-funded sessions due to increased stress and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
On Wednesday (Feb.10), NDP MLA Heather Sweet was joined by four of these psychologists during a livestream on opposition leader Rachel Notley's Facebook page. 
 
Among them was registered psychologist Eileen Bona with Dreamcatcher Nature-Assisted Therapy, whose ranch in Ardrossan has been offering free mental health supports for front-line workers.
 
"We're experiencing over an 80 per cent increase in seeing people and we've had to hire six new therapists in order to meet the demand," she explained. "We're noticing an increase in the severity of suicidality, depression, anxiety and hopelessness in all – including our children and youth.
 
Bona added that sessions are generally only accessible by wealthy or insured Albertans, and they tend to prefer in-person services over virtual ones.
 
"We're in the midst of a mental health crisis that is only worsening and we're truly desperate for a provincial funding strategy to make psychological services readily available to everyone."
 
As of Friday (Feb.12), the petition has gained more than 18,700 signatures.  
 
“All Albertans have experienced increased stress and isolation through this pandemic, and many families have also lost jobs and health benefits,” said Sweet. “Using the provincial health insurance plan to cover sessions with a mental health professional would make a real difference in so many people’s lives. I’m proud to present this petition on behalf of these mental health professionals.”
 
Sweet will present the petition when legislative sessions resume in early March.
 
A petition presented by Alberta psychologists has gained over 18,700 signatures.