Our country is facing an unprecedented mental health crisis that is impacting youth and adults from every background, community, and socioeconomic status. It is estimated that one out of five adults experience mental illness every year. However, less than half of them receive any kind of support. In addition, it is estimated that 49.5% of youth will experience a mental health disorder before reaching adulthood.
Mental health does not discriminate against whom it impacts. Children, adults, and the aging population representing every ethnicity, race, gender identity, religious orientation, and economic status are impacted. What is discriminatory is how we address mental health as a society. Individuals with mental health disorders often suffer in silence for a variety of reasons. Some of these challenges are listed below:
Family: The first barrier to obtaining support for mental illness is that individuals may not recognize they have an issue that they can obtain assistance for, or their family may not want to discuss mental health behaviors. Mental health is often carried through generations and if it is something the family does not recognize or does not want to talk about, obtaining support is often challenging to overcome those family barriers.
Stigma: As a society, we continue to stigmatize individuals who have mental illnesses which creates barriers to seeking support. Mental illness is a hidden health issue. It is no different than a person who has diabetes and needs healthcare to address that disease. Mental health needs to be treated as a medical condition; however, society often does not demonstrate empathy or compassion for those with mental illness. Stigma is two-fold. The first is from the public, and the second is self-stigma, where people turn against themselves.
Lack of Services: Those who are willing to obtain support will face additional barriers to locating services. There are great disparities in who is eligible for support. Some of the issues include high cost and insufficient insurance coverage, limited options and long waiting periods to obtain care, and lack of awareness of services.
Disparities: Research also shares that racial and ethnic minority groups have impacted disparities in accessing mental health services. The CDC shares that people from racial and ethnic minority groups face additional obstacles to obtaining care. Some of these obstacles include lack of insurance, lack of racial and ethnic diversity among mental healthcare providers, lack of culturally competent providers, financial strain, and stigma. The CDC also shares that racism negatively impacts mental health overall creating unequal access to services.
Despite these barriers, the demand for mental health services is higher than ever and the availability of mental health providers is strained. In a study conducted by the APA, they found that 50% of therapists have not been able to meet the demand of the increase for treatment for anxiety and depression since COVID. They also found that 72% of these providers report a longer wait list than before COVID. This study also validated the need for providers to work with youth. 46% of those surveyed reported an increase in adolescent patients over the past year.
Due to this ongoing increase in demand, there is a great need for social workers to enter the mental health field. Social workers who obtain their MSW will be able to tackle this mental health crisis through multiple roles including but not limited to:
Interested in making an impact? Become a social worker!*
Are you interested in becoming a social worker? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for social workers is expected to grow twice as fast as other professions.
Settings you can provide social work to address mental health for all ages:
- Mental health clinics
- Outpatient clinics
- Substance abuse clinics or residential settings
- Telehealth therapy
- Private practice therapy
- Domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers
- Community mental health centers
Find out how to make a true impact on mental health by obtaining your Master of Social Work at Herzing University! Find out more here: https://www.herzing.edu/behavioral-health/social-work
*Individuals considering the Master of Social Work program should be aware that state certification/ licensure requirements and eligibility to apply for certification/licensure vary from state to state. While certification/licensure is not a requirement for certain types of jobs, in some states, it may be required for any positions titled ‘Social Worker’ and to refer to yourself as a Social Worker in professional settings.