Nursing MSN & DNP, Editorial

The Growing Demand for Mental Health Practitioners: Stats and Trends

The need for mental health services has been steadily growing in the United States—even while the shortfall of mental health practitioners is also growing. But this time of urgency for patients, society, and the profession itself is also an amazing opportunity.

New practitioners entering the field with a passion for helping others have the chance to fill the gap. USAHS is offering a new role specialty in our Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program: Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner–Primary Care. If you have your BSN degree and RN license, you can become a nurse practitioner specializing in mental health. When better to answer the call?

Factors contributing to the growing demand for mental health services

Even before the pandemic, many Americans were hurting. Political divisions and ecological instability have long been significant stressors—even before the COVID-19 pandemic began wreaking havoc on our lives.

Mental health pre-pandemic

In 2019, 24.7% of U.S. adults with a mental illness had an unmet need for treatment. This percentage has increased every year since 2011. MHA, 2022

The stress of the pandemic

42% reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in Dec. 2020, up from just 11% during 2019. Nature, Feb. 2021

13.3% reported having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19. CDC, Aug. 2020

From June 2019 to June 2020, suicidal ideation doubled among U.S. adults surveyed. CDC, Aug. 2020

Other stressors in today’s world

83% of survey respondents felt emotionally drained from work. MHA, 2021

Across 36 studies, up to 40% of subjects affected by climate disasters developed a related mental disorder such as anxiety, phobias, substance abuse, and depression. APA, Mar. 2017

Of people affected by California wildfires, 33% show symptoms of major depression and 24% show symptoms of PTSD. Frontiers in Psychiatry, Mar. 2020

Factors contributing to the lowered supply of mental health practitioners

Check out our comprehensive data study on the nation’s nursing shortage for interactive graphics and charts on which states have the most dramatic shortfalls of registered nurses (RNs). And scroll down for more stats on the nursing shortage and the shortage of mental health professionals.

General nursing shortage

With more than 500,000 seasoned RNs anticipated to retire by 2022, 1.1 million new RNs are needed to close the gap. ANA, n.d.

More than one-third of nurses are 55 or older, so are on track to retire over the next ten years. ANF, Oct. 2021.

In 2020, more than 80,500 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing programs due to the nurse educator shortage and resource constraints. AACN, April 2021

Since the pandemic began, 12% of U.S. healthcare workers have lost their jobs and 18% have quit. Morning Consult, Oct. 2021

Shortage of mental health professionals

More than one-third of Americans live in areas with a shortage of mental health professionals. USA Facts, June 2021

An additional 6,398 mental health providers are needed to fill the gaps. USA Facts, June 2021

In some states, more than 80% of the population lives in a mental health professional shortage area. USA Facts, June 2021

Most antidepressants are issued by general practitioners who have no psychiatric or psychopharmacological training. BMC Family Practice, June 2017

PMHNPs can help fill the demand

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners can help meet our nation’s needs for more specialists in the areas of mental health and substance abuse. You can help fill the gap!

121,400 jobs for advanced practice registered nurses, including NPs, will be added between 2020 and 2030—a 45% increase. BLS, 2021

Out of 325,000 nurse practitioners in the United States, only 4.7%, or about 15,275, had a PMH specialty certification as of early 2021. AANP, May 2021

Of RNs, only 3.7% have a primary specialty and 5.5% have a secondary specialty in psychiatry/mental health/substance abuse. Journal of Nursing Regulation, 2020

Even so, nurses specializing in psychiatric mental health represent the second-largest group of behavioral health professionals in the U.S. Journal of the APNA, Jan. 2019

Becoming a PMHNP at USAHS

Consider earning your PMHNP-PC role specialty at USAHS! Here are the details:

  • Online study + one required on-campus clinical intensive
  • 55 credit hours
  • 600 practicum contact hours
  • 8 trimesters (2.7 years), although acceleration options are available*
  • 6 start dates

*Time to completion may vary by student, depending on individual progress, credits transferred, and other factors.

Master of Science in Nursing

The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program with five popular role specialties: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner–Primary Care (PMHNP-PC), Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP), Nurse Educator, and Nurse Executive. The nurse practitioner role specialties feature a required on-campus clinical intensive, whereas all role specialties feature optional on-campus immersions. The MSN has several options to accelerate your time to degree completion. Take your nursing degree to the next level of specialty practice.

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