As Pandemic Wanes, Access to Mental Health Care Does Too

The number of people seeking mental health treatment has spiked during the pandemic, but challenges to receiving care and inequality in accessing it are growing.

Long waiting periods for patients seeking mental health treatment are a nationwide problem. Only six states have laws similar to the one recently passed in California restricting wait times for mental health care.

Meanwhile, some insurers have begun rolling back access to telemedicine that gave patients increased flexibility to see out-of-state mental health service providers virtually. 

Cost is also a major barrier to receiving mental health care, especially for older adults who are challenged to find a provider who accepts Medicare. Otherwise, many pay out of pocket for sessions that can cost hundreds of dollars.

Addressing mental health concerns in children is an increasing priority. The number of children who visited the emergency room for suicide attempts increased by 31% in 2020, indicating that an increased number of adolescents struggled with depression during the pandemic.

However, mental health resources available to students in school and social emotional learning – a teaching philosophy that helps children cope with bullying and manage their feelings – are at risk of being cut due to increased politicization. Schools working to increase resources and dialogue surrounding mental health are being met with growing backlash from conservative parents concerned that their children are being indoctrinated with progressive ideas in the classroom.