Report reveals Wisconsin doesn’t have enough mental health professionals for children


MARSHFIELD, Wis. (WSAW) – According to the ‘Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health 2022 annual report’ the recommended professional-to-patient ratio is 250 community-based mental health professionals to one, Wisconsin is at 440 to one.

Marshfield Clinic Health System Child and Adolescent Psychologist Kelsie Offenwanger believes mental health is a growing problem and there isn’t enough professional help available. “We’ve seen a significant decrease in the amount of behavioral health clinics or in-patient beds available,” said Offenwanger.

A rise in mental health crises plus a decline in staffing just doesn’t add up. Neither does the age demographic, according to Offenwanger. She added, “Over the years more typically we’ve seen more teenagers that are presenting with suicidal ideation.”

Now, children as young as five are going to emergency rooms due to their mental health. “Within Wisconsin, we’ve seen significant referrals for children under the age of 10,” said Offenwanger. “Kids are really starting to have a low frustration tolerance. I think within social media and this face paced world that we are living in they’re used to getting things at their fingertips.”

Offenwanger said if something doesn’t go how a child expects, there are extreme emotions of wanting it to be fixed immediately. “I think those extreme emotions are leading to impulsive decisions and impulsive reactions that can lead us to make negative comments about not wanting to live, not wanting to be here, wanting to hurt someone else, or hurt ourselves.”

Offenwanger recommends parents look for signs in their child struggling with mental health such as increased irritability, isolation, and changes in sleep patterns.

If anyone needs help talking about emotions with their children, Offenwanger is hosting a mental health webinar this Friday. Click here to sign up.


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