Mental health providers are in high demand, and they can’t keep up. Therapists are turning away patients, closing their waiting lists and worrying that things are about to get worse.
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Anxious. Overwhelmed. Burned out. Stuck.
Those are just some of the words that 1,320 therapists around the country are hearing from their patients. While we all know about the stress of pandemic living, The New York Times wanted to hear from the people on the front lines of what has become an emerging mental health crisis.
The Times’s Well desk created a survey asking mental health providers around the country to tell us how their patients are coping as pandemic restrictions ease. Psychology Today, which offers a widely used “Find a Therapist” list, agreed to send our survey to its professional members. The response was overwhelming, and the answers paint a bleak picture about the state of mental health in America right now.
Nine out of 10 therapists say the number of clients seeking care is on the rise, and most are experiencing a significant surge in calls for appointments, longer waiting lists and difficulty meeting patient demand. Our analysis found that the higher demands for therapy are happening in every region and at similar rates in red and blue states. Former patients have returned for care, and new clients are seeking therapy for the first time for anxiety, relationship problems, racial justice issues, financial stress and other issues that have surfaced during the upheaval of the past 18 months.
But the most compelling parts of our survey were the first-person stories from therapists themselves. We heard stories of patients hiding in closets for privacy during virtual appointments, troubled couples descending on therapy offices and exhausted therapists forced to turn away people in crisis.
“These ripple effects are going to be affecting us for some time,” said Leah Seeger, a marriage and family therapist in Minneapolis who responded to our survey. “I believe I will be helping people navigate the effects of the pandemic for the rest of my career.”
“A 10-year-old boy I work with came up with ‘sad panic mode’ to describe his feeling of overwhelm,” said Georgie Gray, a licensed independent social worker in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. “I now use this phrase with other kids, and it resonates.”
“I’m happy that people are actually reaching out for services, but therapists are stressed,” said Shatangela Gibbs, a licensed professional counselor in Bloomfield, Mich. “I hope there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. But it looks like the next few years it’s going to be pretty high numbers. I don’t see it going down anytime soon.”
While most of the therapists we talked to predicted a rough year ahead, I hope our story will make everyone realize that they are not alone, and that many, many people continue to struggle with the stress, isolation and uncertainty that Covid-19 causes.
Read the full story:
Why 1,320 Therapists Are Worried About Mental Health in America Right Now
More from the Well Newsletter
Starting Jan. 3, I’m going to lead readers on a four-week Eat Well Challenge in special Monday editions of this newsletter. We’ll be exploring why restrictive diets don’t work, offering advice for coping with cravings, and sharing the latest science on how to retrain our brains and reshape our daily eating habits so we feel great every day.
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Jillian Kay Segal had a Harvard M.B.A. and was a married mother of three who started rabbinical school in her 50s. When she died from cancer in 2019, she left behind a hole in the hearts of all who knew her — as well as a mystery in her knitting bag. Her sister, Alison Leigh Cowan, found the unfinished knitting project and set out to find out what it was, learning to knit and grieve along the way.
I stuffed the mysterious mess back in the knitting bag with other unfinished projects and tried to learn how to knit and purl myself, attempting with every stitch to be a little bit more like my missing sister, even though the effort hurt. Every click of the needles reminded me of her, conjuring anew all the things she had said and made to warm us and wrap us in beauty: a chuppah for my daughter’s wedding, a tallit bag for our father, afghans for the kids.
Read the full story from The Forward:
My sister was a master knitter. When she died, I picked up her needles — literally.
I’m ending today’s newsletter with a plea: If you haven’t gotten your booster shot already, get one now.
There was a time when a lot of smart people didn’t think booster shots were entirely necessary. But that has all changed with the emergence of Omicron, a highly infectious variant that is spreading quickly, even among the vaccinated. The good news is that booster shots offer a stronger defense against Omicron. So far, the illness caused by Omicron appears to be (thankfully) more mild, but the surge in cases will still no doubt ruin holiday plans and overwhelm hospitals. As the science writer Donald McNeil wrote recently: “We should stop calling this a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated.’ It is becoming a pandemic of the unboosted.”
Read David Leonhardt’s advice on Omicron:
An Omicron Surge is Likely. Here’s What to Expect.
Here are some stories you don’t want to miss:
Gretchen Reynolds on exercise, metabolism and weight loss.
Tiffanie Graham on navigating her pregnancy with fibroids.
Melinda Wenner Moyer on what’s up with those chin hairs.
And of course, we’ve got the Weekly Health Quiz.
Let’s keep the conversation going. Follow me on Facebook or Twitter for daily check-ins, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A look at how we are handling isolation, anxiety and grief during the pandemic, and ways to cope.
‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort