At Massachusetts General, 800 patients wait for psychiatric care

Massachusetts General Hospital is among the mental health providers across the U.S. that has experienced an overwhelming demand for psychiatric services, The Washington Post reported Oct. 29. 

The Boston-based teaching hospital reported 800 patients on its psychiatry wait list this summer. 

As a result, the organization asked physicians Aug. 18 to stop referring psychiatry patients for nonurgent care because there were not enough workers to meet demand, according to The Washington Post.

Jeffery Huffman, clinical director of Massachusetts General Hospital's department of psychiatry, told the newspaper the issue persists, though he expects improvement "over the next two months" with new hires.

Mental health providers nationwide are facing increased demand for services to treat issues such as anxiety and depression. A study conducted by the World Health Organization found that since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a 27.6 percent increase globally in major depressive disorder cases and a 25.6 percent increase in anxiety disorders. Union members in California have also protested as the need for these services has climbed. 

The Washington Post contacted more than 300 mental health providers, as well as patients and policy experts, to gain insights into the matter and found therapists are using unconventional methods such as TikTok support groups to address the demand for mental healthcare. 

"It's so unorthodox, but I don't know what else to do," Shawn Dobson, a licensed professional counselor in Smyrna, Ga., told the newspaper. "People are desperate, and therapists who got into this because they want to make a difference are also desperate."

Steve Schlozman, a child psychiatrist with Dartmouth Health Children's in Lebanon, N.H., told the newspaper he has contacted clergy, school guidance counselors and even soccer coaches to serve as de facto therapists for young people struggling with mental healthcare issues. Other therapists described adding extra hours to accommodate demand. 

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association has been asking congressional leaders to prioritize parity and do more to ensure mental healthcare benefits to be covered at the same level as physical healthcare benefits, as called for in the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act

To read the full Washington Post report, click here

 

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