Understanding the Mental Healthcare Field and Coverage Options

Understanding the Mental Healthcare Field and Coverage Options

Mental health and well-being can affect us all and are just as important to pay attention to as our physical health. Our mental health determines how we interact with the world and deal with challenges big and small. For some people living with a chronic illness, the stresses of everyday life can compound the challenges you already face. In fact, research has shown that people with arthritis are more likely to have increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, and/or stress, which can then lead to poor management of arthritis symptoms. Factors such as the uncertainty of a diagnosis, reduced independence, or even dealing with changes to treatment can impact your mental well-being.

Chronic pain can impact mental health as well. When asked about the relationship between their disease and mental health, people with arthritis noted that when their pain increases, their stress, anxiety and depression also increase.

Some people have pre-existing or emerging mental health conditions that are independent of their arthritis, and in some cases, these conditions could be further worsened by arthritis symptoms. With or without a mental illness, many people with arthritis are resilient in coping with pain or loss of mobility, and are able to maintain their mental wellbeing despite life’s challenges.

It’s important to address your mental health as part of your overall healthcare. The information in this resource can help you understand different approaches to addressing mental illness through access to mental healthcare and promoting your mental wellness or wellbeing:

  • Mental Health Practitioners – people who treat mental illness and provide mental healthcare
  • Treatment approaches – different forms of mental healthcare treatments
  • Mental wellness approaches - different methods to promote resilience, wellbeing and mental wellness strategies
  • Coverage options – types of mental healthcare that may or may not be covered by insurance plans
  • Delivery methods – ways you might receive mental healthcare

In Canada, there is a wide range of practitioners, services and self-led programs available to help you take care of your mental and emotional health.  Certified mental health professions are governed by a regulating body and require specialized training, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and in some regions, psychotherapists.

It’s important to note that in many provinces and territories, anyone can call themselves a counsellor, a therapist or life coach — whether they have formal training or not.  Do your research to make sure a service or professional is right for you because even if a professional is certified by a board, this doesn’t mean they’ll be a good fit for you personally. You can self-refer to a psychologist or any unregulated professionals, but these services are usually not covered by your public health plan. Health plans will cover seeing a psychiatrist, whether for assessment or for treatment.

Wellness Promotion

Below are some of the methods that you can use to promote your mental health:



This resource was reviewed in May 2020 with expert advice from:

Dr. Keri-Leigh Cassidy, FRCPC
Professor of Geriatric Psychiatry, Dalhousie University
Clinical Academic Director, Geriatric Psychiatry Program
Department of Psychiatry, Dalhousie University

Dr. David K. Conn, MB, FRCPC
Vice-President, Education and Director, Centre for Education at Baycrest 
Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto 
Co-Chair of the Canadian Coalition for Seniors' Mental Health

Margaret Smit-Vandezande, MSW, RSW
Social Worker, Arthritis Rehabilitation and Education Program
Arthritis Society

This resource was made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Pfizer.
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