Why is there a shortage of therapists, a mental health crisis? , Opinion

The shortage of therapy is increasing. Most counselors I know – especially the more experienced ones – have a significant waiting list. Not just any waiting list, but several months.

This summer, Massachusetts General Hospital reported an astonishing 880 people on its waiting list for psychiatric services. and recent headlines such as “Why psychologists says the waiting list is getting longer” and “the waiting list for Medicare is huge and isn’t going away” remind us that this may not be a short-term problem.

Scarcity, in general, is starting to become a feature of American life, and not just toilet paper, baby food, and Adderall. We’ve seen labor shortages in a wide variety of occupations, including child care, education, nursing and law enforcement. Even at my local tractor supply store, the annoying clerk told me recently that they are short of five workers.

But, of course, some drawbacks are more urgent than others. And when our human services dedicated to life-saving treatment begin to limit, there is an understandable sense of urgency. Over the past year, we’ve grown accustomed to seeing stories of people struggling to get care as health care facilities are closed or face staff shortages. It seems like every week there’s another story about the ways the mental health system is failing to meet our collective needs, including an article on New York City’s inadequate efforts to meet its mental health crisis and students who are committing suicide. Controversy has included the support of Yale University, who at times felt pressure to back down.

In response, experts often suggest that the answer is to increase the number of professionals or make them more accessible through digital technologies. Both of these are of vital importance, but there is reason to believe that they will not be sufficient.

More than 65 years ago, Congress commissioned a study of the mental health system in America. The resulting report, written by Dr. George Albee, “Mental Health Manpower Trends,” warned that the nation would not have enough professionals to address the scope of mental health problems.

That was in 1959. Since that dire forecast, the mental health and social crisis in America has not diminished or improved, to say the least. The various revolutions that followed in the decades that followed—particularly the sexual and divorce revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s—were devastating to families and all of our mental health. And while much has been said about the impact of digital revolutions since then, nothing can be said about pornography’s continued encroachment into homes and hearts.

Despite enormous investment in mental health care and interventions over the past two decades, we have seen historic levels of depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior, especially among young people. Understandably perhaps, our collective response has often been some form of “we need to”. and also what we are already doing.

To be clear, a good and wise counselor can do wonders in one’s life. But at some point, we have to look more closely at what is happening and appreciate that a deeper pivot may be required. Albert Einstein and Ben Franklin may never have said it, but there is still truth in the notion that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Even though mental health and medical interventions have always been effective, it is becoming increasingly clear that we will never have enough to meet all needs. All 29 of Utah’s counties face a shortage of mental health professionals, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

My own field of community psychology has been looking at creative solutions to this challenge for several decades. For example, instead of expecting more and more people to turn to professionals, what else can we do to seek professional insight and go To communities – finding ways to help them do what they are particularly suited to do?

Too often, the natural support systems around us — family, friends, and neighborhoods — come to be seen as part of the problem, rather than as part of what we know they have the potential to be.

Keeping this in mind, a new hope has arisen. Even though we may not have enough counselors, social workers, therapists, and medical professionals, most of us Doing It is adequate Neighbors, friends and family members. all around us.

But instead of seeing that as an abundant resource, these relationships are often overlooked. One mother told me, “I’m just a mother”—hinting that since she wasn’t a doctor, she couldn’t do much for her distressed child. While it’s true that expert insight can be invaluable in many cases, what if you combined the best of professional guidance with a parent’s wise intuition?

One reason we forget our inner ability to support others may be that we have assumed for too long that we no longer need that ability. Northwestern scholar John McKnight famously tells the parable of a grief counselor going to a small town and putting up shingles. Before this time, when someone died of illness or accident, the community knew what to do – gather together, mourn with each other, and find ways to ease each other’s hurt and pain. . But with the new office in town, people started saying, “Well, now, you go over there and talk to that grief counselor.”

Pretty soon, McKnight said, the community began to forget about its ability to care for each other. Whatever good this grief counselor had legitimately given to the community, neighbors, friends, and family, inadvertently began to lose faith in the role they could play in lifting and serving each other.

Though allegorical, it is not hard to see evidence of this all around us today. Many veterans who come home from war report that when they begin to share their experiences with someone, a common response is “You should go talk it out”. Someone(meaning “to a professional, not me”). This has inspired Paula Caplan to launch a national campaign to “Listen to a Veteran” and get their stories heard.

What would such efforts mean amid so many other challenges? How about “listen to an abuse victim,” “listen to a widow” and “listen to a refugee or immigrant” — not to mention people who are alone, lonely, ill, or facing bullying or discrimination?

Of course, listening doesn’t always mean we’ll be helpful. People facing mental illness or past abuse often find it uncomfortable for people to listen to their story – and try to heal them or do something to take away the pain.

But the good news is that these are all things we can learn to do better. And what would it mean if we actually stepped into that role of community support with greater assurance?

I’ll never forget the day my friend had an emotional breakdown and had to move from her apartment. His family faced a lot of challenges and without question that contributed to his misery. But on the day, when they needed him, he appeared. They were there. They loved him – yes, and also than the many professionals who had assisted him.

What else can families give each other if they believe in their ability to help?

Mutual support and peer support efforts can certainly be a part of the solution. But TikTok support groups won’t save us from our mental health woes. As some have argued, there would be neither loosening of educational and licensing standards, nor passing of laws to allow physicians to prescribe medicine.

Without the community rising up to take its vital position in mental health support, it is hard for me to see how we will cope with a national crisis that is only getting worse.

I believe in the potential of our communities and families. Similar to a nuclear power supply, there is a vast amount of untapped power available in our natural support systems, waiting to be harnessed. Let’s find it together.

Jacob Hayes is editor of Public Square Magazine and serves on the board of the National Coalition of Dialogue and Deliberation. He has worked with Phil Neisser to promote liberal-conservative understanding since the publication of “You’re Not As Crazy As I Thought (But You’re Still Wrong)”. With Carrie Skurda, Kyle Anderson, and Tye Mansfield, Hayes also authored “The Power of Stillness: Mindful Living for Latter-day Saints.”

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