Summary: The prevalence of mental health issues has increased significantly in the last few decades. Finding mental health counseling support has been challenging in the US for many years. Psychologists and psychiatrists are not just taking new patients; waiting times are several months long.
Moreover, it appears that the mental health care system was ill-prepared for multidimensional stressors like the coronavirus epidemic. The need for mental counseling increased significantly due to coronavirus-related stress. Thus, people are increasingly finding it difficult to find mental counseling support.
Getting timely mental health counseling has never been as difficult as these days. The delays are unbearably long. Thus, many people have to look for alternative ways to manage their health, like practicing yoga or seeking online advice.
Things are especially bad for those living in larger cities, where getting qualified mental health advice may take months. The Internet is full of stories of people who urgently need such support, yet they could not find any. For example, many need mental health counseling to overcome their grief. If they cannot find support immediately, things may become much worse. But it appears that no one is willing to accept new clients.
The coronavirus pandemic has made things worse
Though getting timely mental counseling was never easy in cities like Los Angeles, things have worsened lately. It appears that many more people are seeking help due to coronavirus, and there are just not enough qualified mental health care workers in the US. Just take an example of Boston Medical Center, which started contacting parents of children who joined the waiting list in April 2021.Unfortunately, they had to wait for more than 10 months to get the help of a child psychiatrist.
The American Psychological Association (APA) recently surveyed and found enormous pressures on the psychologist workforce. The coronavirus pandemic has increased the demand for treating conditions like depressive disorder, anxiety, grief, sleep disorders, and substance abuse by as much as 50% in many instances.
In the survey conducted by APA, 62% of psychologists reported an increase in patient referrals since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, they reported an almost 40% increase in workload. Thus, 65% said that they have no capacity for new patients.APA, which represents 133,000 psychologists, is not surprised by these issues. They have long predicted these things.
APA Long Predicted the Deficit of Mental Health Care Workers
An article was published in the APA’s journal way back in 2020 when the association said that the present system is not ready to handle the upsurge in mental health issues caused by multidimensional stressors like covid-192.
The Reason Why it is so Hard to Find a Mental Health Counselor
Mental health counselors could be psychologists or people trained in managing mental health issues. They can generally provide various advice and non-pharmacological means of managing mental health issues. However, these people do not prescribe medical drugs. Then there are psychiatrists, who would often prescribe medications to address mental health issues. In addition, people seek help from psychiatrists for more severe mental health problems like major depression or even schizophrenia.
There appears to be a deficit of psychologists and psychiatrists in the US, which is the main reason why people have to wait so long to get help. The number of people living with mental health has increased significantly during the last few decades. But, the present health system, which was created after World War two, failed to foresee this upsurge in mental health problems.
An even more severe problem is finding narrow specialists. For example, it is highly challenging to find a specialist for mental problems in children. Similarly, very few psychiatrists understand the requirements of ethnic minorities in the US. Thus, finding a psychiatrist with experience in treating black people may be tricky if you are black.
To conclude, the US is in the middle of a mental health epidemic, and there is an urgent need to carry out reforms to the healthcare system. However, it is not something that can be done overnight. Till then, most people are left on their own to find a mental health counselor.
By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA