Our mental health care worker shortage is taking a toll

MENTAL HEALTH CARE is, like many industries, facing a workforce shortage, as clinicians flee the field in record numbers. But looming alongside that shortage is a second and equally troubling mental health crisis, one that threatens our nation’s children.

So, what happens when the two crises intersect? The answer can be found simply by looking within many of our homes, families, and communities.

While people wait for delayed health care, emotional problems often escalate. For clients, especially young ones, a clinician’s departure can be disruptive at best, devastating at worst. For clinicians, frequent job changes create financial and personal instability but also interfere with the sense of efficacy and satisfaction that make emotionally taxing work feel worthwhile. Mental health is a person-centered field that relies upon a therapeutic alliance between client and clinician. Yet clinicians are fleeing faster than they can be hired, directly compromising the care that is possible.

Many of the reasons behind the mental health workforce shortage parallel what those in other industries face – measuring childcare costs against income earned, experiencing discordance with organizational culture and workplace conditions, and working within an already taxed, understaffed system that relies upon those who are left to fulfill the vastness of need. When the need is the mental health of a human being, those tasked with responding feel the weight of filling every crack in the system with ourselves.

Read the full article in Commonwealth Magazine.