Do we have enough psychiatrists to provide care for individuals with serious mental illness in the United States?

As of 2018, there were approximately 40,000 psychiatrists actively practicing in the U.S. Based on psychiatry needs across different settings, a recent report by SAMHSA has estimated that closer to 143,000 psychiatrists would be needed to serve the needs of populations with Serious Mental Illness (SMI), resulting in a shortfall of over 100,000 psychiatrists.

The extent of this shortage of psychiatrists is likely even greater due to the fact that:

  • Psychiatrists tend to work in areas near where they train, typically in urban areas and near the coasts.
  • Only about a third of psychiatrists nationwide accept Medicaid, the most common insurer for populations with serious mental illness.

Addressing this shortage will require increasing the number of psychiatry graduates who treat individuals with SMI, with a particular focus on underserved regions of the country.


  1. SAMHSA Behavioral Workforce Report. 2020.
  2. Beck, A. J et al. (2018). Estimating the Distribution of the US Psychiatric Subspecialist Workforce. Population, 600, 47-6.
  3. Wen H et al. Medicaid Acceptance by Psychiatrists Before and After Medicaid Expansion JAMA Psychiatry. 2019 Sep 1;76(9):981-983.
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