BRYAN, Texas — Counseling services are in high demand since the pandemic. A local counselor, Cheryl Mikeska, says there is a counselor shortage to keep up with the demand of counseling services and is hoping to break down the stigma associated with mental health.
With an increase in people's need for mental health services, a Harvard University study recently found that 77 percent of counties across the country have severe shortages of behavioral health professionals.
“In March of 2022, the World Health Organization announced that worldwide depression and anxiety had increased by 25 percent,” said Cheryl Mikeska, Licensed Professional Counselor. “I personally never thought that I would work or be a part of a pandemic.”
She says there’s a stigma when discussing the topic of mental health.
“I think prior to COVID, as we all know, there has been a stigma attached to dealing with mental health issues to talking about it in general, but with the challenges that COVID has presented, people are finding themselves in a more desperate, willing place to talk about their mental health issues,” said Mikeska. “Perhaps, that’s been the silver lining that has come from COVID.”
With a large increase in depression and anxiety, patients in the Brazos Valley are outnumbering counselors and are having to be placed on a waitlist.
“We already were seeing an increase in clients before COVID,” said Mikeska. “There already were waiting lists. Since the addition of COVID, it has really extended those waitlists to where folks are having to drive out of town to find services quicker than services we might offer here.”
Mikeska says the list is even longer for children, but one local mom is making sure her kids seek counseling at an early age after feeling trapped and isolated during COVID.
“I wanted to make sure that my kids were more emotionally literate than I was,” said Jessica Stubblefield, Counseling patient. “I wanted them to know that a lot of people struggle with their mental health and it’s okay to go out and get help from somebody.”
Stubblefield shares how seeking counseling helped her overcome her daily struggles.
“The pandemic just brought on a whole lot of other issues that were under the skin kind of issues and then being at home all day everyday trying to do the online schooling at first with the kids and then just being cut off from everybody. The isolation just made everything so much worse.”
She says her daughters, ages six and nine years old, believe everyone should have a counselor.
“There’s only so much people can handle,” said Stubblefield. “Everybody has been living in crisis management. It’s getting to the point where people are saying I have to have help if I’m going to keep going.”
Mikeska says talking to someone is the first step. If you would like counseling services, you can contact your primary physician for help or reach out to a local counselor.