Mental health professionals are in short supply for children in southern Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) — This is called a “critical time” for mental health across the country and in southern Arizona.

It comes at a time when children are returning to school and navigating 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 don’t take new clients or have waiting lists. said Crystal McCowen, a licensed clinical social worker, of her heavy workload.

She said she aims to help children as young as five overcome issues such as anxiety and depression.

“There are normal age-appropriate developmental issues that show up that reflect mental health issues. And, I think it’s never a bad thing to consider, could it be something more,” she said.

McCowen shared that she uses things like playdough and Legos to help little ones open up during their sessions. She also uses yoga and stretching techniques as she gets older.

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

She added that these cases take time to help a child struggling with mental health issues and professionals are overwhelmed with cases. She said it may be because once a slot opens, it gets filled with another child.

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

McCowen said Tanque Verde Pediatrics plans to begin group therapy sessions next month. She said the aim is to help bring more children and teens to their doorsteps and help more of them with their mental health at the same time. You can find out more about their programs here.

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