Nationwide psychiatrist shortage’s impact on South Carolina

Updated: May. 27, 2019 at 8:26 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - With rising rates of depression, suicide, and the opioid crisis, mental health professionals are in high demand.

This is putting a strain on psychiatrists across the country and in South Carolina.

Mental health has become less of a taboo topic for a lot of people. More and more people are getting the help they need, while that’s a good thing. Supply might not be keeping up with demand.

Dr. Jamae McDermott is a local geriatrics psychiatrist. She said your mental health is important. “Our brain is an organ just like our heart, just like our pancreas and like any other organ in our body. It needs to be healthy and well taken care of.”

She said in recent years, the stigma around mental health is going away in the public and with other physicians. “We were thought of amongst physicians as old men with white beards, hospitalizing everyone or over-medicating everyone.”

There’s a higher demand psychiatrists across the country. But demand isn’t being met. According to a 2016 study by the Department of Health and Human Services, we’re short about 3,000 psychiatrists right now. That’s been on the number of people seeking help. That doesn’t include the number of people who aren’t diagnosed with a mental illness or those who do not seek help.

McDermott said, “In the US over half of the counties have no psychiatrist working so it’s difficult to get help.”

The Association of American Medical Colleges said 60% of psychiatrists are over the age of 55. McDermott said there needs to be a focus with getting the next generation of psychiatrists before it’s too late. “We need to look at funding spots for more residencies. Funding in our community psychiatric positions and our community mental health centers.”

Palmetto Health and the University of South Carolina will now have 6 general psychiatry residency slots instead of three.

The South Carolina Department of Mental Health said they serve about 100,000 South Carolinians a year.

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