3 Big Problems in the Behavioral Health Workforce that You Should be Aware of

Recently, I have had the privilege to begin my internship in the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration under the Division of Mental Health and Addiction. In the few short weeks I have been there, I have learned so much about the inner workings of the behavioral health field including some of the main problems leading to the behavioral health field hurting from a workforce perspective. Unfortunately, I do not think I would have gotten this insight without being in this role, yet I believe it is imperative that the general public is more informed about these issues in the workforce hence why I am writing this blog post. While I am not completely knowledgeable about all the different issues in the behavioral health workforce, there are three main concerns that I think everyone needs to know to be more informed voters, advocates, and active members in bettering mental health support for all.

  1. The first prevalent issue, I want to share has to do with limited capacity in the existing systems. This limited capacity has come to light in part because as stigma has decreased surrounding the topic over the years, more and more people are seeking services. This decrease in stigma is great news, but with this came a multitude of problems dealing with capacity and accessibility. Quite frankly, there are not enough professionals entering the behavioral health field at any level. Further, there is a systemwide lack of diverse representation in the mental health space. Not to even mention the barriers in rural communities. Thus, systematically there are some gaps that need to be filled.
  2. A second big issue is that people are unaware of the opportunities in behavioral health. Even I, for a very long time, ruled out a career related to mental health in any way because there is a ton of confusion on what you can actually do. From different terms for job positions to unclear career paths, there is a need for greater cohesiveness. There are definitely people who are interested in working in mental health, but many do not know where to start.
  3. Finally, there is simply not enough funding. While millions of dollars are given out through grant funding there still seems to be a lack of resources. In general, this is one of the most complex problems to overcome.

As you can tell, these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to developing a competent and effective workforce in mental health. Yet now that I have laid out these major barriers from a very broad overview, I want to share what that means for individuals who may not already be in this space of expertise. It certainly is not all bad or negative news. First, everyone must know there are so many innovative new programs and initiatives being implemented every day to help combat these problems. In fact, I have already witnessed just a small part of this important work, and I am excited to continue seeing all the work being done through my internship. Those that work tirelessly in this area are not unaware of the issues or of the potential solutions. Instead, they are working to overcome the problems in the mental health field, but they cannot do it without help.

That’s where the people reading this come into play. We cannot continue to see progress in mental health without progress in behavioral health workforce development, and the only way to push workforce development further is by ensuring the public is aware of the obstacles that have to be overcome. By informing the public of these problems, people will start to feel more called to support existing efforts that work to mitigate the challenges in behavioral health. If you are feeling called to do more, you can help by volunteering your talents to market opportunities, donating to fund school based early career projects, staying up to date on relevant financial policies at every level, and more. Additionally, if you are outside this professional space, I hope you might be inspired to work on solutions pertaining to the issues I have outlined. There are so many things you can do now that you are more aware about the issues being faced. All in all, I hope this post made you think about ways you can help further the behavioral health workforce in your communities to then better support mental health overall.

Hi all! I hope you enjoyed this month’s blog post. I have always believed in the giant impact organizations can have when they intermix business principles with helping professions, and my internship has just solidified my perspective. Workforce is so intertwined with all the work done within the mental health field, but I think it can often be overlooked. Thus, I wanted to share a very broad look a this idea as a way to provoke some deeper thought and encourage potential calls to action.

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