Demand Exceeds Supply of Mental Health Professionals After Pandemic | front and center

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Dr. Shelah Radke, Medical Co-Director of the Mercy Behavioral Health Access Center at Mercy Hospital


Courtesy of Mercy Hospital


There are only a limited number of mental health care providers, and they were busy before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, says Dr. Shelah Radke, demand far outstrips supply, leaving people with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues to wait up to eight months to see a healthcare professional. outpatient mental health.

Radke is co-medical director of the Mercy Behavioral Health Access Center at Mercy Hospital and is a child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient physician at Mercy St. Louis. She says it’s difficult to help people in need access care during the pandemic, but “there have been some good changes – outpatient clinics are now operating virtually and in person, which provides a good mix for patients, according to their needs.

In fact, the increased focus on virtual care has improved access for some children. “More and more schools cooperate with us and allow us to provide services like IOP [intensive outpatient] virtually during the school day, meaning a child could potentially leave their classroom, walk down the hall to a school media room and log into a therapy session with their IOP group, and be able to participate in this model of essential care in a confidential way, while not requiring parents to drive to school and PIO over the course of a day,” she says.

Yet high demand is straining a system that is already at full capacity. A 2021 study published in The Lancet, the leading weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, looked at data from more than 200 countries in the first year of the pandemic and “estimated a significant increase in the prevalence of major depressive disorders and anxiety disorders since before the pandemic. An increased prevalence has been observed in both males and females throughout life. These results are all the more worrying since depressive and anxiety disorders were already the leading causes of disability worldwide. Additionally, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an advocacy group based in Arlington, Va., estimates that more than 40 million American adults — about 20 percent — have a diagnosable anxiety disorder.

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