Shortage of Psychiatrists Contributing to Crisis in Access to Mental Health Treatment

Report from the Coalition of Ontario Psychiatrists reveals alarming inequity and a growing gap in patient access to psychiatric care

Toronto – August 8, 2018 – An alarming new report finds that access to mental health services is being severely impacted by the shortage of Psychiatrists in Ontario. Released today from the Ontario Psychiatrists, the report titled Ontario Needs Psychiatrists: Ontario psychiatry shortage contributing to Canada’s mental health crisis, finds that there is a currently a shortage of 200 psychiatrists across Ontario, and that if action isn’t taken soon the shortfall will grow by 75% by 2030.

“Demand for care continues to exceed the supply of clinically active psychiatrists,” says Mathieu Dufour, Co-Chair, Coalition of Ontario Psychiatrists. “Despite increasing the number of outpatients seen annually by 20%, extensive wait lists for psychiatrists persist. Comprehensive mental health treatment requires a team approach, including the specialized skills of a psychiatrist.”

The change in demographic, as the majority of practicing psychiatrists approach retirement, recruitment challenges and lack of incentives within the practice are considered the major contributors to the shortage.

Psychiatrists are an integral part of the mental health and addictions system in Canada, however the report indicates that the number of psychiatrists per population is expected to decrease by 15% from one psychiatrist per 7,210 people in 2010 to 8,435 in 2030, with remote and rural areas disproportionately impacted. Furthermore, despite clear data on the current shortage and future demand, the residency vacancy rate for psychiatry remains the second-highest out of any specialty.

Ontario Psychiatrists believe that the challenge can be reversed and access to treatment improved dramatically if the government takes steps to address the chronic shortage, including:

  • Improving psychiatry exposure in medical school: Increasing the duration of medical students’ pre-clerkship exposure to psychiatry to at least six-weeks to allow for more of a comprehensive overview of a career in psychiatry.
  • Increasing psychiatry residency spots and reducing residency vacancies: Increasing the number of psychiatry residency positions available to students and ensure all residency spots for psychiatry are filled.
  • Make psychiatry attractive again: Offering fair incentives to all psychiatrists with a particular emphasis on equalizing incentives in rural and underserves areas to support retention in the profession.

“To improve our mental health system in Ontario, and across Canada, we must prioritize building system capacity to ensure those seeking care can access a psychiatrist, in a timely manner and close to home,” says Dr. Mathieu Dufour, Co-Chair, Coalition of Ontario Psychiatrists. “We look forward to working with the government in the development of an overall mental health strategy, one that addresses recruitment and retention of psychiatrist.”

About the Coalition of Ontario Psychiatrists: The Coalition of Ontario Psychiatrists is a formal partnership of the Ontario Psychiatric Association and the Section on Psychiatry of the Ontario Medical Association and was formed in the late 1990s to facilitate coordination and cooperation between these two organizations. The Coalition represents over 1,900 psychiatrists who provide high quality mentalhealth services for Ontarians.


Coalition of Ontario Psychiatrists – Report on Shortage of Psychiatrists – Media Coverage
  • Shortage of Psychiatrists Contributing to Crisis in Access to Mental Health Treatment
  • Report from the Coalition of Ontario Psychiatrists reveals alarming inequity and a growing gap in patient access to psychiatric care
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