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Demand for mental health care putting strain on Missouri providers

Woman seated on the floor against a bed, holding hand her right to her forehead. She has short dark curly hair, is wearing black rimmed glasses, black crewneck top and is crying
Claudia Wolff

The Stress in America survey has been tracking the mental health toll of the past year. More patients, longer wait times and overloaded practitioners add up to a system on the brink of failing.

The pandemic has been a stressful, anxiety-inducing time for a number of us.

Now, as we approach the end of a second year of upended home, work and school lives, mental health care providers are getting a sense of just how extensive the need for care has become.

In 2020, the American Psychological Association surveyed psychologists to find out how COVID-19 impacted mental health treatment and the work of practitioners.

Fast forward to October 2021, a follow-up survey showed an increase in the treatment of anxiety and depression. It also displayed how psychologists have increased workloads, longer waitlists, and low capacity for new patients.

"We have a very unsustainable system right now," says Dr. Vaile Wright, senior director of health care innovation at the APA.

Most surprising to Wright is how consistent the data has been over the past year, indicating a mental health crisis. "These are really frightening statistics, and again it seems to be across the board, it's not just an anomaly, this is what is really happening in this country right now."

The survey revealed how patients are feeling, but Dr. Arnie Abels with the University of Missouri-Kansas City notes that the care and state of mind of the providers is very important as well.

"We really have been trying to focus on elements of self-care, really monitoring the flow of clients and how case loads are looking for each individual therapist," Abels says.

Abel stressed the importance of "really taking steps to encourage leave time, taking breaks, taking lunch, getting out of the office, setting boundaries, a wide range of things."

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