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.