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Child Psychiatrist /Adult Psychiatrist

America Has Reached Peak Therapy. Why Is Our Mental Health Getting Worse?

Updated: Jun 12

A man in the picture is meditating.

From TIME: “By the latest federal estimates, about one in eight U.S. adults now takes an antidepressant and one in five has recently received some kind of mental-health care, an increase of almost 15 million people in treatment since 2002. Even in the recent past—from 2019 to 2022—use of mental-health services jumped by almost 40% among millions of U.S. adults with commercial insurance, according to a recent study in JAMA Health Forum.

But something isn’t adding up. Even as more people flock to therapy, U.S. mental health is getting worse by multiple metrics. Suicide rates have risen by about 30% since 2000. Almost a third of U.S. adults now report symptoms of either depression or anxiety, roughly three times as many as in 2019, and about one in 25 adults has a ‘serious mental illness’ like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. As of late 2022, just 31% of U.S. adults considered their mental health ‘excellent,’ down from 43% two decades earlier.

Dr. Robert Trestman, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Council on Healthcare Systems and Financing, says there are multiple factors at play, some positive and some negative. On the ‘positive’ side, more people are comfortable seeking care as mental health goes mainstream and becomes less-stigmatized, increasing the total number of people getting diagnosed with and treated for mental-health issues.

Less positively, Trestman says, more people seem to be struggling in the wake of societal disruptions like the pandemic and the Great Recession, driving up demand on an already-taxed system such that some people can’t get the support they want or need.

Some experts, however, believe the issue goes deeper than inadequate access, down to the very foundations of modern psychiatry. As they see it, the issue isn’t only that demand is outpacing supply; it’s that the supply was never very good to begin with, leaning on therapies and medications that only skim the surface of a vast ocean of need.”

A woman stranded on a big rock and yelling for help.


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