Everything seems like an emergency these days. Yet, when it comes to our children, we always need to pay special attention.

And it sure does feel that many of our kids are really struggling with anxiety and depression-related issues.

Experts seem to agree that mental health issues for our children are near – if not at – an all-time high.

Pew Research started noticing this a few years back stating, “the number of teenagers who recently experienced depression increased 59% from 2007 to 2017.”

More recently, JAMA Pediatrics shared that there was “significant increase in children’s diagnosed anxiety and depression between 2016 and 2020.”

The trend hasn’t been good. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared child and adolescent mental health a ‘national emergency’ in October of 2021.

The isolation and home schooling that the pandemic brought along only exacerbated the matter. “Youth mental health difficulties” during the pandemic have “likely doubled” per JAMA Pediatrics

The rising demand for youth mental health services is one half of this emergency. The shortage of mental health practitioners that can help our youth makes up the other half.

Pediatrics Nationwide claims that “Less than half of the 7.7 million children in the United States with an identifiable mental health condition are receiving services from any mental health provider, much less a psychiatrist.” And while not receiving services is not the same as not able to receive services, it is clear that there is currently a shortage of appropriately trained professionals.

The American Psychological Association states in their 2022 Trends Report that school psychologists are in short supply. And everyone can attest that waiting lists for therapists focusing on children and adolescents have only grown on average.

It’s even more difficult on average to find an available therapist that belongs to a certain minority or has LGBTQI experience. Notably, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently noted that only 4% of psychologists are Black.

Telehealth has become a viable option

The proliferation of online therapy allows you to cast a much wider net when considering therapists. Therapists are licensed at the state level and can work with any resident of that state. Drive times, travel costs, scheduling issues, and wait times can be dramatically reduced when teletherapy is considered.

Plus, research suggests that children and teenagers have taken to telehealth even more effectively than adults due to their overall comfort level with the technology.

In the meanwhile

If your child is in need of assistance and today’s shortage is delaying your plans to work with an expert, there are steps you can take today to help the cause.

It starts, as always, with the important basics. Ensure your child is receiving adequate sleep. Ensure they are engaging in physical activity and getting plenty of fresh air. And keep them busy with purposeful activities … we’re not talking texting and social media here.

It’s easy to roll our eyes at these suggestions, but experts – including Psychologist and author Lisa Damour – remind us that we shouldn’t “underestimate the power of the basics”.

Valuable online resources are also available to help fill the temporary void. Internet-delivered CBT Programs (ICBT) have been found to be ‘feasible, acceptable, and effective’ according to Patricia Frazier, Professor of Psychology at the University of Minnesota

A few other highly-recommended resources include:
Magination Press Children’s Books from American Psychological Association
The C.B.T. Toolbox series of books
My Anxiety Plan from Anxiety Canada (teenagers)
Camp Cope-A-Lot – animated online program teaches CBT skills to kids 7-13

The West Michigan Psychological Services team has offices in Norton Shores, Grand Haven, and Holland. We can also assist families throughout Michigan. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for further information.