Mental health care is a growing field with a real need for more providers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment in mental health services is increasing by 18% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. The nation has millions of adults who have mental illnesses who are not getting the treatment they need. To make matters worse, there is also a nationwide shortage of mental health professionals. not enough people have the training and experience necessary to provide mental health services.
According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, 77% of counties lack sufficient behavioral health professionals. Having so many people who require assistance being neglected is hazardous for our country. Chicago residents seeking counseling, for example, may have to wait a year or more before seeing a specialist. Only 17 percent of phone calls made to get an appointment with a mental health counselor were successful, according to a recent Harvard University study.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, meeting the expected demand for mental healthcare by 2030 requires adding 10,000 providers to seven different professions. The gap between supply and demand for adult psychiatrists is most severe and is estimated to be up to 30% while there is a projected 10% deficit in addiction counselors.
What is Causing the Mental Health Care Shortage?
While demand for mental health services is rising, unfortunately, the profession is losing providers, particularly in rural areas. Many mental health providers are aging out of the workforce and retiring soon. At the same time, younger people are not choosing to work in the mental health field. There are several factors contributing to the shortage of mental health providers, including:
- Increasing demand for mental health services – More people seek treatment for mental health issues yearly. When individuals are not getting the care they need, their symptoms can worsen, and they can be at risk for suicide. When this happens, they often end up in the emergency room, significantly burdening the health care system.
- Aging baby boomers – As the population ages, we see more individuals dealing with mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, and mental health providers are needed to treat these individuals.
- Fewer mental health providers entering the field – The number of individuals entering the mental health field has been declining for the past few years, likely due to poor pay and a challenging work environment.
- The opioid crisis – As the opioid crisis continues, more people need mental health services due to stress, trauma, and other negative impacts of the opioid epidemic.
- Poor working conditions – People entering the mental health field dislike the long hours and heavy caseloads. It combined with low pay, can deter people from entering the field.
- Lack of general public understanding – Many people mistakenly believe that anyone with a mental health issue should be able to receive services for free. This has resulted in reduced public funding for mental health services, placing further stress on the system and creating a shortage of providers.
- Lack of respect in the field – Although many respected celebrities are coming forward with their mental health struggles, the overall stigma and general fear surrounding mental health issues persists.
Growing Demand for Therapy Services
We are also seeing a growing demand for mental health services as more people become aware of their mental health and seek treatment. It is especially true for younger people, who are more likely to seek help for their mental health issues. There is a growing need for treatment in the following areas: –
- Anxiety disorders – Anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million American adults and receive more than $42 billion in health care costs annually.
- Mood disorders – Mood disorders include major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and dysthymic disorder and are the leading cause of disability worldwide.
- Substance use disorders – The opioid crisis has resulted in more people needing treatment for substance use disorders.
Caregivers and Counselors Will be in High Demand.
As the population ages, we will see more people needing mental health services. This population in need includes more people who are caregivers for children, spouses, and elderly parents, as well as friends and acquaintances. Millions of Americans currently provide unpaid, long-term care for someone with a physical or mental illness. Caregivers often experience high stress, anxiety, and depression, which can lead to burnout if not treated. As the need for mental health services continues to increase, there will be a growing need for counselors and therapists to provide services for caregivers.
MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS ARE IN SHORT SUPPLY DUE TO INCREASED DEMAND
According to the Steinberg Institute, 66% of all primary care providers in the United States say they have difficulty locating mental health professionals to refer their patients to.
To put that in context, consider what would happen if:
• 2/3 of heart patients could not find a good cardiologist.
• 2/3 of cancer patients did not find oncologists.
• 2/3 of the children couldn’t be reached by a pediatrician.
There is a shortage of caregivers in all fields of healthcare. To understand this, Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) released some data in April 2021 to identify shortfalls in the following areas:
- Primary health caregivers 83 Million people were affected by the shortage of 15303 doctors
- Dental diseases 61 million people were affected by the shortage of doctors 10926
- Mental Health problems 124 million were affected by the shortage of doctors 6471
How can we keep up with the growing demand?
The good news is that we can take steps to keep up with the growing demand for mental health services. These include: –
• Increasing funding for mental health services – More funding for mental health services, particularly for public mental health systems as well as insurance rates, can help alleviate the strain on the system and reduce the number of people who go without care.
• Increasing mental health research – Research has shown that many mental health disorders can be treated successfully and that people who receive treatment can live healthy and productive lives.
• Educating the public – People need to understand that mental health disorders are treatable and are not a sign of personal weakness.
• Improving public attitudes towards mental health issues – There is still a stigma surrounding mental health issues and mental health providers. We can help reduce this stigma by speaking out about our mental health experiences and encouraging others to do the same.
Mental health care is a complex topic that will become even more complex in the coming years. There are more people seeking treatment than ever before. The shortage of trained mental health professionals is a critical issue. In order to provide the mental health services needed in our communities, organizations must deploy time-saving secure technology like Hucu.ai. Hucu.ai incorporates One Touch Telehealth, can be deployed in minutes and saves more than two hours a day for each user.