Mental health is a critical issue in California, with a significant shortage of mental health professionals across the state, particularly for children and teenagers. Despite efforts by government and community leaders to increase investment in workforce development, the situation continues to worsen, with more and more children being seen in emergency rooms for suicidal thoughts.
A 2018 report by the University of California, San Francisco predicted that by 2028, demand for psychologists and other therapists would be 40% more than supply, even before the pandemic further skyrocketed the need. The shortage of mental health practitioners is particularly dire for children, with close to a third of California’s 58 counties having no child and adolescent psychiatrists at all, according to the American Academy of Child & Adental Psychiatry. In addition, the CDC reported that suicide rates among young Black Americans aged 10-24 years increased by 36.6 percent between 2018 and 2021, demonstrating the need for culturally competent interventions and prevention efforts.
The shortage of mental health professionals, combined with the stigma surrounding mental health issues, continues to limit Californian’s access to mental health care. The increasing number of children and teenagers being seen in emergency rooms for suicidal thoughts highlights the need for urgent action to address this issue.
“The shortage of mental health professionals, combined with the stigma surrounding mental health issues, continues to limit Californians’ access to mental health care.” – Mary Hayashi
Mary Hayashi’s Background
California’s shortage of mental health professionals is a complex issue that requires a multi-faceted solution. The issue is immense and has significantly impacted millions of people suffering from mental health conditions and their families. One of those families is the Mary Hayashi family, which is why this is a personal issue for me.
Many years ago, a tragedy struck. Bo Yoon was my older sister and my best friend. Being four years younger than her, I wasn’t aware she was struggling with depression. Those types of things were not discussed in our family or culture. On January 1, 1980, Bo Yoon died by suicide, leaving our family, friends, and community shocked and devastated. Her story is a heartbreaking reminder that suicide is a real and present danger for many young people. My sister’s death due to a lack of access to mental health services inspired me to take action and do what I, Mary Hayashi, could to prevent this from happening to other families.
As a former Mental Health Services Oversight Commissioner, I was tasked with overseeing the state’s mental health system and ensuring that Californians had access to the care and services they needed. I recognized the importance of expanding access to mental health services and created new programs and initiatives to address the shortage. I also advocated for increased funding for mental health services, which would help attract more mental health professionals to the field and ensure they had the resources they needed to provide high-quality care to those in need.
My experience with the shortage of mental health practitioners and my sister’s death motivated me to take action and positively impact the lives of those struggling with mental health conditions. From my vantage point, two major solutions need to be implemented to address this critical issue: reducing the stigma and discrimination of mental health issues and increasing the financial resources for the entire mental health profession.
Mary Hayashi’s 1st Solution: Reducing Mental Health Stigmas and Discriminations
The stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health issues have been significant barriers to seeking help and treatment. It is essential to continue raising awareness, educating the public about the importance of mental health, and promoting a more accepting and understanding society. My legislative actions as “Mary Hayashi – former CA Assemblywoman” are a great start, though public campaigns, community events, and school programs that aim to educate people about mental health and encourage them to seek help can also achieve a great deal in getting the word out. Additionally, mental health professionals can play a crucial role in reducing stigma by providing accurate information about mental health and treatment options and advocating for the rights of those affected by mental health issues.
Mary Hayashi’s 2nd Solution: Increasing Financial Resources for the Mental Health Profession
The shortage of mental health professionals is partly due to the low pay and limited benefits offered to mental health workers, particularly social workers. There needs to be a concerted effort to increase the financial resources for the entire mental health profession. This can be achieved through various measures, including tuition reimbursement programs, licensure processes, and community college programs offering specialized mental health training.
One example of such a measure is Senator Wiener’s Mental Health Workforce Legislation, which was vetoed by the Governor. The legislation would have provided increased funding for mental health workforce education and training programs in community colleges. It incentivizes the development of mental health professionals by offering tuition reimbursement and loan repayment programs. This type of program can be replicated in other states, providing a much-needed boost to the mental health workforce and improving access to care for children and teenagers.
“There needs to be a concerted effort to increase the financial resources for the entire mental health profession.” – Mary Hayashi
Mary Hayashi is Committed to Improving the Mental Health System
It’s time to take action and make a difference in the lives of those struggling with mental health issues. We must continue to work towards reducing the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health and support those in need. But that support can’t stop there. It’s time to invest in the mental health profession and the individuals dedicating their lives to helping others. Social and mental health workers are crucial in promoting mental wellness, yet their positions are often undervalued and underpaid. By supporting initiatives such as community colleges, tuition reimbursement programs, and streamlining the licensure process, we can help ensure that the mental health profession attracts and retains the best and brightest.
Let’s come together and commit to improving the mental health system. The future of our communities and the well-being of those in need depends on it.
About Mary Hayashi
Mary Hayashi is a respected healthcare leader and former California State Assemblymember. She has over two decades of experience in healthcare and public service, having served on several boards and committees related to health policy and advocacy. During her time in the Assembly, Hayashi authored vital legislation to improve access to healthcare and mental health services, particularly for underserved and vulnerable communities. She is also a strong advocate for the rights of patients and healthcare workers. Hayashi’s work has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including the California Primary Care Association’s “Legislator of the Year” award and the Women’s Foundation of California’s “Women’s Policy Maker Award.” Today, Hayashi continues to be a passionate voice for healthcare reform and mental health issues, advocating for increased investment in resources for mental health professionals and better care for all. Learn more about Mary and her mental health advocacy here.