Growing Need for Mental Health Care Straining Existing Resources
Demand for treatment of anxiety and depression remained high for the third consecutive year as the demand for the treatment of trauma- and stressor-related and substance use disorders has increased.
The demand for mental health treatment continues to grow as many psychologists do not have the capacity to add new patients, according to a new survey by the American Psychological Association (APA).
“The national mental health crisis continues,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA CEO, in a press release. “If you are struggling, know that you are not alone. Psychological science shows that social support is key to developing resilience, so if you are having difficulty accessing care in a timely way, reach out to others to find support and identify ways to cope.”
The APA’s 2022 COVID-19 Practitioner Impact Survey evaluated how psychologist practice have been altered by the pandemic. The survey collected response from 2295 doctoral-level, active licensed psychologists in the United States from September 20 to October 7, 2022.
The survey showed that the demand for anxiety and depression treatment remained high for the third consecutive year as the demand for treatment for trauma- and stressor-related disorders and substance use disorders has increased as well. For example, 6 in 10 practitioners said they no longer have openings for new patients, approximately 46% said they are unable to meet the demand for treatment, and approximately 72% have longer waitlists than prior to the start of the pandemic.
Psychologists reported that they are contacted by a weekly average of more than 15 potential new patients seeking care. The survey also found that nearly 8 in 10 psychologists are seeing an increase in the number of patients with anxiety disorders since the start of the pandemic. Further, 66% saw an increase in demand for the treatment for depression.
Approximately 47% had increased demand for substance use treatment and 64% saw an increase in demand for trauma treatment. Two-thirds of the psychologists in the survey reported an increase in the severity of symptoms among patients in 2022.
The survey also found growing demand for mental health services from young people and health care workers. Across all age groups, the largest growth was seen in adolescents between 13 and 17 years of age seeking care, with 46% of psychologists reporting increases over the prior 12 months. Many psychologists also saw increases in patients between 18 and 25 years of age and children under 13 years of age over the same period.
Approximately half of psychologists observed an increase in health care workers seeking treatment since the start of the pandemic.
“Having timely access to psychological services is critical for addressing the needs of those diagnosed with behavioral health challenges,” Evans said in a press release. “But we need to tackle this problem with a variety of solutions, beyond individual therapy. We need to support and expand the workforce, promote integrated behavioral health into primary care, improve mental health literacy, use technology and innovation to expand reach and improve efficiency. But critically, we must expand our paradigm for addressing behavioral health— especially if we are to successfully address health disparities—by using more public health strategies to reach people earlier and in the places where they live, work, play and worship.”
The survey also found that 11% of psychologists are seeing all patients in person, which grew from 4% in 2021. Telehealth is still growing in use, with more than half of psychologists seeing some patients remotely and some in person, and 31% seeing all patients via telehealth, which is down from 47% in 2021.
Because of the increase in demand, 45% of psychologists said they felt burned out. However, most psychologists said they have either sought peer consultation or support to manage burnout, were able to practice self-care, and have been able to maintain a positive work-life balance.
Increased need for mental health care strains capacity. American Psychological Association. November 15, 2022. Accessed November 16, 2022. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2022/11/mental-health-care-strains#:~:text=Nearly%20half%20(47%25)%20said,symptoms%20among%20patients%20in%202022.