Sun. Mar 3rd, 2024

In ever-decreasing numbers, school psychologists say they are incapable of intervening with all the children who need it. The source of the problem: unattractive working and salary conditions. An offer from Quebec is currently on the table.

« A generation of hypothesized students &nbsp

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Krystopher Larouche, father of little Chase, 6 years old, complains about the lack of accessibility to the services of school psychologists.

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“We are told that there are psychologists in schools. This is not true! »

Krystopher Larouche is angry. He would like his son to undergo a psychology evaluation.

Without having catastrophic grades, the child shows attention problems and, on a social level, he is quite isolated.

Not very fortunate, Mr. Larouche and his partner would have liked to benefit from the services of psychologists in schools. But to his great dismay, he was told that he dreams in colors.

His teacher told us that it was a waste of time, that It didn't do much good to put him on the waiting list, he explains, still frustrated. She explained that there were two failing students in her class and that Chase was not failing. So our child was not a priority.

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We are told that we have psychologists in our schools. But that's not true, basically!

A quote from Krystopher Larouche, father of two children, carpenter

Mr. Larouche was told that it would be necessary to wait, in any case, two or three years before their boy could hope to be evaluated in psychology at school.

The trained carpenter finds this expectation unacceptable. It's not when my son is going to be a failure that we have to do something, it's now!

Catherine Archambault, who has been practicing in a school environment for four years, understands Chase's father's frustration very well.

But it is the lack of school psychologists that means she and her colleagues have no choice but to prioritize children presenting the most severe problems, she explains.

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Catherine Archambault has been working in a school environment for four years, but already she says she is disillusioned and discouraged by the working conditions which prevent her from doing quality work.

It is therefore impossible to do early detection, confirms the doctoral student in psychology, with a little sadness in her eyes.

When a child is knocking over chairs or biting his teacher, he is the one we go to see before the child who is fidgeting and is a little in the moonlight. But that doesn't mean that this other child is less important, underlines Catherine Archambault, doctoral student in psychology.

In schools in more disadvantaged areas , where many children have needs, three profiles are prioritized, summarizes Catherine Archambault:

It is often difficult to intervene with young people in the last group, she confides. Their self-esteem is very low, they are unmotivated, they have always had bad grades and don't understand why. And sometimes, it's just that they didn't know that they had an attention disorder or dyslexia, and that's why it was more difficult for them.

< p class="StyledImageCaptionLegend-sc-57496c44-2 sbxsP">The report by Fannie Bussières McNicoll

Catherine finds it very regrettable not to be able to intervene until late in many cases. Sometimes I tell myself that if I had caught a certain student three years ago, because he was already on my waiting list, maybe I could have helped him, that it would be easier to get out of it.

In this context of shortage, she finds François Legault's promise to offer more early detection thanks to four-year-old kindergartens illusory. In 2018, the Prime Minister said he wanted to provide access as quickly as possible to services available in schools, particularly psychologists or speech therapy for the good of children.

We all find that quite absurd [as a promise]. We are already not capable of helping the young people in front of us, we will not be able to help the little ones! There is no one to offer this service!

A quote from Catherine Archambault, a doctoral student in psychology who works in schools

The decline in the number of school psychologists is evident. Since 2010, their numbers have fallen by 24%, from 1039 to 787. During the same period, the number of students increased by 13%.

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The president of the Coalition of Psychologists of the Quebec Public Network, Dr. Karine Gauthier, is alarmed by the situation. The needs are immense. There is a mental health crisis among young people, that’s clear. And we are reducing the psychological help we can provide them. It’s dramatic!

It’s extremely sad. It's like we're mortgaging the next generation.

A quote from Karine Gauthier, psychologist and president of the Coalition

She believes that the work of school psychologists is too little valued. However, the psychological assessment and monitoring at school, the fact that they are on site, in constant contact with the school team, teachers, other stakeholders, ensures that the care is really adapted to the child.

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Dr. Karine Gauthier is worried and hopes that the current public sector negotiations will make it possible to improve the working conditions of school psychologists.

Dr Gauthier says that teachers also find the shortage of school psychologists very serious.

It is they, subsequently, who have to deal with children who have serious mental health problems, for example young people having several attacks of panic per day due to untreated anxiety.

The heart of the problem, according to the Coalition of Psychologists of the Quebec Public Network: salary conditions, which are disadvantageous in the public sector compared to the private sector.

The average salary annual salary of a psychologist in private practice is in fact 44% higher than that of a school psychologist, taking into account all their social benefits including retirement.

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Table on the comparison of the average salary of psychologists in 2022

As a result, school service centers try to recruit, but are unable to do so. There are plenty of positions open, but they remain vacant due to a lack of candidates, summarizes Karine Gauthier.

Because there are fewer psychologists, each must serve more students, therefore disperse to more schools.

In the majority of regions of Quebec, the ratio is less than one school psychologist per 1000 students. However, the ratio considered adequate would rather be one psychologist per 400 or 500 children, or nearly three times more than the current average of 0.8 psychologist per 1000 students, according to Karine Gauthier.

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When we are in three or four schools at the same time, we have the impression of being scattered and of not being able to offer a service quality, relates Catherine Archambault. “We feel helpless, frustrated, exhausted. »

Due to the working conditions which put her life balance in danger, Catherine Archambault herself decided to reduce her workload in schools to three days a week and to introduce private consultations into her practice.

I arrived young and motivated. I deeply believed in free mental health services, recalls Catherine Archambault. But quickly, I became disillusioned and this feeling of being able to help children in the public sector crumbled.

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School psychologists are among the hundreds of thousands of public sector employees who are in negotiations with the government for the renewal of their collective agreement.

The office of the Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, responds that it is well aware of the workforce issues in the school network concerning psychologists.

We need them. This is why we [offer them] a differentiated offer of up to 30% [salary increase over five years].

A cabinet quote from the Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville

The working week of psychologists in the public sector would increase from 35 to 37.5 hours and this increase includes a bonus which cannot be taken into account when compiling the salary for the purposes of retirement, however Karine Gauthier.

I think that providing better conditions in the school could be a solution; incentives, anything, to keep them in schools. We want the best for our children, says Krystopher Larouche.

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Krystopher Larouche deplores the lack of accessibility to the services of a school psychologist.

I think it should be an accessible service, not just free. It's annoying. Someone needs to open their eyes and do something to fix the situation.

A quote from Krystopher Larouche, father of two, carpenter

At this time, it is suggested that Chase's parents turn to their doctor family or a private psychologist, a very expensive option. But Krystopher Larouche would prefer follow-up in the school environment, especially since her boy's difficulties mainly manifest themselves at school.

Karine Gauthier and Catherine Archambault agree with this argument, because they confirm that most mental health problems begin in childhood or adolescence.

When problems are dealt with quickly, there is a much greater chance that they will be resolved and that the person will not drag this out all their life, explains Karine Gauthier.

And schools are the best place to do that! adds Catherine Archambault.

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