A Look at Mental Health Resource Shortages & Job Trends


September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Advocates, organizations, survivors, allies, and community members across the United States use this time to band together and fight against the stigma associated with mental illness and promote resources for people experiencing a crisis.

It’s especially important to fight for this cause now. On September 2, the Journal of the American Medical Association released a study on levels of depression experienced by adults before versus during COVID-19. Rates of depression have increased from the pre-COVID-19 rate of 8.5% of the population to 27.8%. That’s a three-fold increase.

At Shepard Search Partners, we feel very strongly about this cause and would like to take a moment to encourage you to share some of the resources we list below with your social network. People often silently suffer from depression and anxiety. You never know if someone in your life needs an extra prompt to get help and now more than ever it’s important to check in.

Before we dive further into the latest statistics and trends…

Need Help Now?

If you’re feeling any tendencies toward self-harm or harming others, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741 or visit this website to chat. 

If you don’t feel safe in your own home, call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

depressive episode

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, check out this information and the following hotlines:

Al-Anon and Ala-teen hotline line: 800-356-9996

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 1-800-662-4357

A Significant Shortage in Supply

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, over half of the United States counties do not have a practicing psychiatrist. Compare that to the one in five people in the United States with a mental health condition, and you can see why we are in desperate need of more mental healthcare workers.

People experiencing a mental health crisis are often forced to be boarded in emergency wards or turned away despite reporting suicidal ideation. When calculating the number of psychiatric beds per 100,000 people, the United States ranks 29th among the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) projected that by 2025, we’ll be short-staffed by more than 10,000 full-time employees in the psychiatrists; clinical, counseling, and school psychologists; mental health and substance abuse social workers; school counselors; and marriage and family therapists disciplines.

And the list goes on.


Why Do Students Avoid Mental Health Careers?

For the right person with a resilient personality, strong boundaries, and focus on self-care, mental healthcare is very rewarding. You are literally transforming lives on a daily basis. Professionals in these fields are in very high demand and won’t find themselves lacking opportunities.

Unfortunately, there are legitimate reasons to hesitate to enter a mental health career. In particular, students tend to avoid psychiatry because of the funding and structure of psychiatric departments within public and private institutions, the difficulty of reaching the proper diagnosis, and the burden of proof placed on psychiatrists to receive health insurance reimbursement

If you’ve balanced the negatives and the positives and feel compelled to enter a mental health field, we encourage you to do so! So many people out there need more help than is available today. There will never be a shortage of positions available to people who make the commitment to entering the mental health field.

No One Is Immune to Depression

Unfortunately, like COVID-19, people in higher-risk groups (lower income, low savings, experiencing job loss, or having exposure to more stressors) are disproportionately hit with depression. In a country where health insurance isn’t a given, this is especially bad news.

With only eight of the 50 United States reaching 50% of the minimum number of psychiatric beds recommended per capita, many people struggling with mental illness are left untreated, turn to addiction, or find themselves in prison.

mental illness prison

Many people dial 9-1-1 when dealing with a mental health emergency, but police are ill-equipped to handle these cases. The mentally ill comprise between 25%-50% of all fatal police shootings.

Depression has also disproportionately impacted healthcare employees during COVID-19. In China, more than half of the healthcare workers exposed to patients with COVID-19 experienced depression.

A Silver Lining

The stigma associated with mental illness is still very much present, but our attitude is improving day-by-day. The hope is that as we confront the overwhelming number of people in the United States afflicted with poor mental health, we must also admit the need for better, more robust treatment options.

People should be cognizant of the fact that everyone has mental health. Just like physical health, we’re all on a spectrum of well to unwell, and where we sit on that spectrum changes as we’re exposed to stressors. Seeking help is the strongest, bravest thing people can do for themselves, and it’s time we recognize this fact.

There are glimmers of hope amid our sad tale of understaffing and meager resources. Pilot programs are in place changing who responds to mental health crisis calls to 9-1-1.

Eugene, Oregon, is routing their mental health emergency calls–about 20% of total emergency calls–to the White Bird Clinic. Their social worker response team only needed to call for police backup 150 times out of 24,000 calls. That’s less than 0.6% of the time. With the promising results reported early in the program, we hope this trend is adopted across the nation.

social worker

More organizations are meeting the demand for intensive outpatient programs to supplement the lack of inpatient resources. Many of these programs focus on skill-building and draw from cognitive behavior therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, mindfulness-based techniques and more.

We also have to hope that organizations will appropriately allocate funds to these departments given the disparity in supply and demand.

Need Help? Local & National Resources

In the Greater Milwaukee Area, COPE Services offers a hotline ((262) 377-2673) along with additional links to local resources here. Please keep in mind that you don’t need to be experiencing suicidal ideation to benefit from this service. Anyone in crisis can make the call.

The Milwaukee Health Department has a list of free or low-cost treatment options here.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Greater Milwaukee is a rich resource for people seeking treatment or support. They have a dedicated helpline (414-257-7222) and an extensive list of local resources here.

Social Work License Map gathered a list of resources that can be browsed by a population group (ex-Military, Minority, Seniors, etc.) or disorder:


For resource links on a wide range of disorders, check out Mental Health First Aid:


The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also offers a comprehensive list of resources:


NAMI’s helpline (1-800-950-NAMI (6264)) is also a tremendous resource for people searching for treatment options and support, whether you are the person with the disorder or trying to support a person experiencing a crisis.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, check out this information and the following hotlines:

Al-Anon and Ala-teen hotline line: 800-356-9996

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 1-800-662-4357

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