Mental health professionals in short supply for kids in southern Arizona

more mental health sessions happening in Southern Arizona
more mental health sessions happening in Southern Arizona(WGEM)
Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 7:33 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s being called a “critical time” for mental health across the nation, and in southern Arizona.

This comes at a time when kids head back to school and work their way through everyday changes. Now, mental health professionals are noticing an alarming trend.

“We have seen a huge increase in the community. Most of our community therapists, psychologists are also seeing a huge increase. So much so that they aren’t taking new clients or that they have wait lists.,” Crystal McCowen, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, said of her big workload.

She said she aims to help kids as young as five years old work through things like anxiety and depression.

“There’s normal age-appropriate development issues that kind of pop up that mirror mental health issues. And, I think that it’s never a bad thing to consider could this be something more,” she said.

McCowen shared that she uses things like play dough and Legos to help the little ones open up during their sessions. She also uses yoga and stretching techniques as well as they get older.

Dr. Sandy Herron said she’s seeing mental health cases in her patients more and more often as well. “A lot of times that’s presented to us in a medical way. So, kids come in with headaches, vomiting, or nausea, or abdominal pain. And really, after we evaluate them, we find that it’s a mental health issue,” she shared.

She added that these cases take time to help a kid struggling with mental health and professionals are overwhelmed with cases. She said this can be because once a slot opens, it’s filled right back up with another child.

“We live in a relatively small community from a professional standpoint, but a growing community from a population standpoint. Where there may be more support in Phoenix, we don’t see that as readily available in a smaller community,” she said.

McCowen said that Tanque Verde Pediatrics plans to start group therapy sessions in the next month. She said the goal is to help get more kids and teens in their door, and help more of them at once with their mental health. You can learn more about their programs here.