School Counselor: Indiana needs more mental health professionals

(Photo Supplied/Indiana News Service)

INDIANAPOLIS (Indiana News Service): More women and young people have faced behavioral-health challenges since before the pandemic, according to a new report. Nationwide, teen suicides have jumped 26% since 2014, according to the study from United Health Foundation, and anxiety among children also has been on the rise.

Dr. Jen Money-Brady, a Indiana School Counselors Association board member, said many counties in the Hoosier State don’t have enough mental-health services for adults or children. In schools, she added, counselors do their best but often have so many students they need to make referrals, and wait times can range from six to 18 months.

“That’s just really, really difficult,” she said, “when you’re thinking about a student who really needs help and can get help from their school counselor in little bits, but can’t get really long-term support that they need.”

The study compiled more than 100 measures of health, from physical to emotional, social and behavioral health determinants. It found only about one in five kids gets the recommended minimum physical activity of at least 60 minutes a day.

The report also noted that fewer children are getting developmental screenings and child well-visits. Indiana ranks 45th among states for developmental screenings and 33rd for wellness visits.

Dr. Ravi Johar, chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare, said a nationwide shortage of doctors is contributing to the dip in the number of kids in waiting rooms.

“We know there’s decreased access to pediatricians and to women’s health-care professionals,” he said, “so maybe telehealth will be able to help with some of those things.”

Access to health insurance also can be a barrier to care; more than 7% of Indiana children are uninsured, and nearly 12% of women.

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