Ads show des­per­ate need for care

House­keeper of­fers to swap ser­vices for men­tal-health aid in tele­phone-pole-poster plea


A Toronto woman is so des­per­ate for psy­chi­atric care that she has posted ads on tele­phone poles near Wy­ch­wood Barns, of­fer­ing to ex­change her ser­vices as a house­keeper for men­tal-health ser­vice.

The ad, posted near St. Clair Ave. W. and Christie St., of­fers the ser­vices of “house­keeper with over 10 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence.”

“Will­ing to ex­change house­keep­ing ser­vices for psy­chi­atric care at the rate of $15 an hour,” the ad reads. “Na­tive English speaker, clean po­lice record, trust­wor­thy, metic­u­lous.”

The Star spoke with the woman who posted the ad, who asked to re­main anony­mous be­cause she didn’t want her em­ployer to be aware of her men­tal-health con­cerns. The woman is a per­ma­nent res­i­dent of Canada, and im­mi­grated to Toronto from a small town in the U.S. to at­tend York Uni­ver­sity.

While she posted the ad more than aweek ago, she has had no calls about her of­fer as of Mon­day morn­ing.

After the woman grad­u­ated from York, she said, she hasn’t qual­i­fied for OHIP cov­er­age. In On­tario, you must work full-time for an em­ployer for a min­i­mum of six months in or­der to be el­i­gi­ble for OHIP, a re­quire­ment she said she has never been able to meet.

OHIP cov­ers some — but not all — men­tal-health ser­vices. Those with­out OHIP cov­er­age must foot the bill for any health ser­vices on their own.

“I was un­em­ployed for the bet­ter part of a sum­mer, and I didn’t have any­one I could talk to about it,” the woman said in a phone in­ter­view. “I was not re­ally close to any­one in the city . . . that’s when things started to get re­ally bad.”

Dr. Syl­vain Roy, pres­i­dent of the On­tario Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, said even with OHIP, ac­cess to men­tal-health ser­vices can of­ten be an up­hill bat­tle, and dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate. With­out the money to pay for ser­vices, peo­ple of­ten end up stuck on back­logged wait­ing lists.

After a breakup in 2016, she chose to see a psy­chi­a­trist at the Gestalt In­sti­tute of Toronto’s stu­dent clinic, where she says she paid for $40 ses­sions for three months. After com­ing into a pe­riod of fi­nan­cial dif­fi­culty, she could no longer af­ford to go to her ses­sions. The woman was taken to St. Michael’s for treat­ment fol­low­ing a sui­cide at­tempt.

“I was kept in a lit­tle room for three hours, be­fore some­one came in and told me ‘there’s no treat­ment we can of­fer you . . . If you don’t have OHIP, we can’t ad­mit you as an in­pa­tient,’ ” she re­called.

The woman says St. Michael’s re­ferred her to the Cen­tre for Ad­dic­tion and Men­tal Health cri­sis line, as well as a drop-in men­tal ill­ness cen­tre for home­less youth.

“Be­cause I had a job and a place to live, I felt like I was tak­ing ad­van­tage of those re­sources, and tak­ing them away from some­one who would re­ally need them,” she said.

She ul­ti­mately chose not to use the drop-in cen­tres.

“Once I started do­ing bet­ter, I al­ways had the idea that I could barter with a psy­chol­o­gist or a psy­chi­a­trist to get ser­vices,” the woman said.

How­ever, this type of re­source ex­change could vi­o­late bound­aries be­tween doc­tors and pa­tients. The Col­lege of Physi­cians and Sur­geons de­clined to com­ment on this case, in­stead pro­vid­ing lit­er­a­ture out­lin­ing po­ten­tial bound­ary vi­o­la­tions.


A woman who posted these ads on tele­phone poles near Wy­ch­wood Barns a week ago hasn’t re­ceived any of­fers.

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