NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As the need for mental health services in Tennessee grows, the head of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) is warning that they don’t have enough people to meet that need.
“We have got to do something, and we have got to do something because the demand is increasing and if you don’t have people to help people then we know what that outcome will be,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams.
One in five Tennesseeans suffers from a mental illness, according to the department, but finding treatment is often difficult for those brave enough to seek it out.
“People are still having trouble getting in touch with a counselor, getting on the books when they need to just because it’s an overall shortage of professionals,” said Licensed Professional Counselor Kala Hight.
According to Bureau of Health Workforce Tennessee data, there will be a shortage of nearly 4,000 mental health care professionals by 2030, ranging from psychiatrists to addiction counselors.
“The number one reason our clinical staff are leaving is because of compensation and the number two reason is related to burnout,” said Centerstone VP of National Policy Lauren Conaboy.
Conaboy said that according to an internal Centerstone survey, a behavioral health and addiction service, burn out caused in part by an increase in administrative tasks like paperwork and the influx of patients.
While it’s not a time when demand for mental health services is at its peak, often that is the summer according to Hight, it is a time when people can be affected by seasonal depression, loneliness, and familial and financial stress.
“It can exaggerate for people who are diagnosed or even receiving treatment for anxiety and depression, and then for others, it can take on a seasonal component, as well,” Hight said. “Because loneliness and isolation also hit around the same time our times change. Our days are shorter, we are not outside as much, so it can make a huge difference in how we feel.”
To combat this shortage, TDMHSAS is asking Governor Bill Lee to include provider rates, treatment bed infrastructures and programs to train the next generation of mental health professionals.
However, counselors want people to know that despite this shortage, help is always available by call or text by dialing 988.
In addition, they recommend using time this holiday season to check in with loved ones and take time for yourself if you feel exhausted.
For a list of healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms, you can click here.