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Fiona’s Story

In remote communities, care might not exist. Unless you can pay.

In 2003, Fiona and her family came to Whitehorse as sponsored refugees from Kosovo. Her mental health declined almost right away. At high school, she was bullied and traumatized. Fiona didn’t know where to turn. “If you say anything about how you are feeling, you are bullied, if you say anything about needing help, that help didn’t necessarily exist.”

Fiona’s parents had private insurance for counselling but still, she waited and waited. Finally, she got to see a counsellor, but it was not a good fit. When she moved to Ottawa for university, the counsellors were paid for by student fees. “But again, the waitlist was so long that by the time I wanted to see a counsellor, my issues were either resolved or I didn’t care anymore.”

Back in the north now, Fiona works for the Yukon government, and has benefits that cover mental health expenses. But she says she is privileged: “A lot of people I know, if not the majority of folks in the Yukon, don’t have access to a counsellor or to a psychiatrist.”

And if you don’t live in Whitehorse, the capital city, it only gets worse. People who live in remote communities like Watson Lake, or Ross River or Carmacks have to travel to Whitehorse for mental health care. And If they don’t have benefits, they wait. And they wait.

Fiona doesn’t understand why it’s not part of health insurance. She says, “Counseling and psychiatric services should be accessible for anyone, no matter your socioeconomic status, no matter your background, no matter where you’re from, no matter where you’re going, it should just be free. “

Fiona is 28 and she lives in Whitehorse.

To learn more about the Canadian Mental Health Association’s campaign for Free Mental Health Care Now please visit