Gayle Fisher is a mother of two navigating her Texas mental health communities. She says she has always struggled to find resources, but her struggles have gotten worse in recent years.
“Texas is desperate for extra help for the family. Even in the county we live in, there aren’t enough resources. I have mom friends, and we just get together ourselves and we debrief, and we share our resources,” Fisher said.
Fisher and her friends are among tens of thousands of Texans struggling to find help. Jamie Freeny of Greater Houston-based Mental Health America says the need for mental health resources in her community far exceeds availability.
“Texas ranks last in mental health care for children, according to Mental Health America,” said Dr. Freeny.
Texas is not alone. There’s a nationwide shortage of mental health professionals, but it’s worse for kids and teens. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says nearly 1 in 5 children have a mental health problem, but only about 20% receive care.
TEENAGE GIRLS STRUGGLE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS AT A RECORD LEVEL, WITH A LOT OF ‘ENDURING SORRY’, DATA REVEALED
Across the country, every state is experiencing a major or severe shortage of mental health workers.
“Some families will have to travel 1 or 2 hours to meet in person with a mental health professional, which means there are other barriers and challenges they must overcome, such as childcare, taking time off from work, and transportation” Dr. Freeny said.
Melissa Whitson, Ph.D studies behavioral health. She says the pandemic exacerbated the shortage as mental health workers experienced burnout as their workload increased. She says if this shortage continues, it could put families at risk.
COVID AND CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH: FINANCIAL IMPOSSIBILITIES TAKE A MAJOR TOLL
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“It increases the risk that we will have mental health problems, health problems, challenges, behavior problems, substance abuse, juvenile justice involvement, all those negative outcomes that we want to avoid and prevent,” said Dr. Whitson.
WHILE CHILDREN STRUGGLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH, SCHOOLS RELEASE NEW PROGRAMS BUT SOME PARENTS ARE SKEPTICAL
Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that about $25 million would be used to expand primary health care, including school mental health services. First-time applicants must add or expand mental health services to receive school funding.