The shortage of child psychiatrists, which has been a problem for many years, is becoming worse at a time when the United States is facing an increase in depression and suicides among young people, experts tell NBC News.
Fewer child psychiatrists are taking insurance because of low reimbursement rates. Many are approaching retirement, while not enough medical students want to become child psychiatrists.
“We’re not replenishing ourselves,” said Mark Olfson, who teaches and researches child psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
Currently there are about 8,500 child psychiatrists in the country, and an estimated 15 million children who need one, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says.
The group says there should be 47 child psychiatrists for every 100,000 children 17 or younger, or one for every 2,127 children. No states meet that standard. Wyoming has one child psychiatrist for every 22,960 children, while Texas has one per 12,122 children.
Researchers say children whose mental illness is not diagnosed and treated early have an increased risk of suicide and other problems, such as dropping out of school, unemployment, drug abuse, violence and teen pregnancy.
The shortage of mental health treatment for children is most acute in rural or poor areas, the article notes. “In some parts of the country, there’s not a child psychiatrist within a 100-mile radius,” said Wun Jung Kim, Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2014, about one in 10 youth ages 12 to 17 (11.4 percent) had a major depressive episode in the past year. Among teens with a major depressive episode, 41.2 percent received treatment or counseling for depression in the past year.