Bay Area sees therapist shortage as California reopens following COVID-19 pandemic

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- As the state reopens and people are returning back to their normal lives, a need for mental health support is on the rise.

Experts say there is a shortage of behavioral health professionals in the Bay Area, but there are still ways for you to find help.

It's summertime in the Bay Area. The weather is nice; the state is reopened again. All good, right?

Not quite, according to Kaiser Permanente Chair of Chiefs of Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine Dr. Maria Koshy.

TAKE ACTION: Get help with mental health issues

"Now that the acute immediate stage of the pandemic has passed, when that was occurring, there was a lot of adrenaline flowing through the system and everyone was in survival mode," Dr. Koshy said. "Now that those immediate stressors have passed, people are beginning to process the whole impact of what has happened in the past year and a half."

Dr. Koshy says there are three times as many Americans reporting depression symptoms now compared to the beginning of the pandemic.

Mental health professionals are encouraged to see people admitting to their feelings, but those same professionals are in short supply here in the Bay Area.

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"It's not just mental health therapists, it's psychiatrists and drug and alcohol counselors too," Behavioral Health Contractors' Association of Santa Clara County Executive Director Elisa Koff-Ginsborg said.

Koff-Ginsborg adds there are hundreds of open mental health support positions across the South Bay and more needs to be done to keep them around.

She says cost of living and access to telehealth is sending these professionals out of the Bay Area.

As a result, people who need help sometimes struggle to find it, but there are alternatives.

TAKE ACTION: Local resources for those in crisis

"When you have a situation like this with increased need and seeing a decline in our traditional resources that we use, being creative and flexible and identifying other ways to provide support is critically important," Koff-Ginsborg said.

Kaiser Permanente is doing just that.

To help with their increased workload, they are actually outsourcing help from other agencies to support their patients along with their own care team.

Anything they can do to make sure their members' mental health is taken care of.

RELATED: Your Mental Health - A Bay Area Conversation

"Our priority is to make sure that they connect with the care that they need in the moment," Dr. Koshy said.

If you don't have Kaiser and are struggling to find the help you need, Koff-Ginsborg says trained peer counselors can be utilized.

You can also visit PsychologyToday.com to search a database of local mental health professionals in your area based on need and even insurance providers.

Resources recommended by local experts:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
1-800-273-8255
For TTY Users: Use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255

San Francisco Suicide Prevention's 24-hour Crisis Line provides immediate crisis intervention and emotional support to everyone who calls or texts.
Crisis Line: 415-781-0500 or 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: 24/7 Confidential Support, Text MYLIFE to 741741

Asian Mental Health Collective offers low-cost mental health services for Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

Crisis Stabilization Unit - Edgewood Center for Children and Families
Main Line: 415-682-3278
Referrals are accepted 24/7
The Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) evaluates and triages children and youth (ages 5-17) who are experiencing acute psychiatric symptoms or a mental health crisis.

Children's Health Council provides best-in-class learning and mental health services to families from diverse backgrounds regardless of language, location or ability to pay.
For English, call 650-688-3625
For Spanish, call 650-688-3650

If you or someone you know is currently dealing with a mental health crisis, we have provided resources to help here.

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