Mental Health in Missouri: A Call to Action

PMHNP with patient
PMHNP with patient

The need for trained mental health professionals continues to be of paramount importance in the United States and the state of Missouri. According to recent data published by Mental Health America, It is estimated that 32-35% of Missouri adults who completed depression screening from 2020 to 2023 had scores reflective of severe depression, with approximately 27% reporting suicidal ideation.

Of those screened on any of the 11 mental health inventories used in the data collection, 38% of adults over 18 in Missouri identified themselves as trauma survivors in 2023. Further, out of 5,132 Missouri adults who completed a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) risk assessment, approximately 90% had results indicating risk for PTSD. In broader terms, 14.9 out of 100,000 people in Missouri are described at risk for PTSD.

These statistics show that advanced practice nursing roles such as the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) are essential with Missouri’s current prevalence of mental illness. The critical need for trained health professionals in the psychiatric mental health specialty area is a call for Missouri nurses to progress in their careers and make a difference for those with mental health conditions.

What is a PMHNP?

PMHNPs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) specializing in psychiatric mental health care. As nurse practitioners, PMHNPs have the education and training to diagnose and treat mental health disorders. Graduate nursing education is the first step for nurses interested in becoming a PMHNP. The role requires a master’s or doctorate in nursing and completion of a clinical residency specific to the role and responsibilities of a PMHNP.

PMHNPs provide a wide range of services, including:

  • Psychiatric mental health care for patients and families of all ages
  • Evaluation and diagnosis of mental illness
  • Prescription of medications specific to mental health conditions
  • Counseling and psychotherapy
  • Substance abuse treatment

Learn more about the role of a PMHNP

PMHNP national board certification is available from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to promote competency in the skills and clinical knowledge required for entry into clinical practice. The credentials PMHNP-BC™ are awarded to those who complete the certification examination and continue professional development activities to maintain their national board certification.

A high-priority goal of the Healthy People 2030 initiative is to improve mental health through the prevention, screening, assessment, and treatment of mental health disorders. Examples of Healthy People 2030 objectives that can be addressed through evidence-based treatment by PMHNPs include two of the nation’s leading health indicators:

  • Increase the proportion of U.S. adolescents with a depressive disorder who receive treatment (currently reported to have little or no change)
  • Decrease the U.S. suicide rate (currently reported to be improving)

In the words of an experienced PMHNP and community mental health professor, “The psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner [PMHNP] role serves every facet of health care because health cannot exist without mental health.”

- Dr. Kathleen McCoy, DNSc, APRN, PMHNP-BC, PMHCNS-BC, FNP-BC, FAANP

PMHNPs are Needed in Missouri

The risk for ongoing mental health conditions among Missouri residents is exceptionally high. The prevalence of mental illness is not only affecting the adult population but is potentially an even greater issue affecting Missouri youth.

State data from 2020 to 2023 revealed that approximately 40% of youth under 18 in Missouri who completed the PHQ-9 assessment had results indicating severe depression. For every 100,000 of the state population, data shows 71 Missouri youth experiencing suicidal ideation, or 48% of those screened.

The 2020 Status Report on Substance Abuse and Mental Illness in Missouri summarizes data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Data is also summarized from the Missouri Assessment of College Behaviors, among other sources.

In December 2020, the following statistics were reported:

  • Nearly one million adults in Missouri suffer from mental illness
  • 4% of the population, including adolescents and adults, had a substance use disorder
  • 60% of Missouri college students experienced anxiety, and 30% had panic attacks
  • 56% of middle and high school students experienced victimization and online bullying
  • Almost 5% of Missouri college students identified as being involved in an abusive relationship within the prior year
  • There were more than 2,600 cases of child abuse and more than 10,000 cases of child neglect, according to Missouri juvenile authorities

The 2023 Status Report on substance abuse and mental illness in Missouri summarizes data from NSDUH data and reflects information on individuals who received mental health services from psychiatric programs offered through the Missouri Department of Mental Health, Division of Behavioral Health.

In fiscal year 2022, a total of 146,467 mental health disorders were treated, with some individuals having more than one diagnosis. The highest numbers of treated mental illness were in the following categories:

  • 26,255 individuals received services for anxiety, fear, and phobias
  • 36,611 received services for depressed mood
  • 23,340 received services for trauma and stress-related conditions
  • 14,813 received services for bipolar mood
  • 14,082 received services for schizophrenia and other psychotic conditions

Geographic profiles of mental illness treatment received by Missouri counties are also available.

Job Outlook and Demand for PMHNPs

The need for mental health professionals in Missouri and a favorable nursing career outlook make now an excellent time to become a PMHNP. If you want to make an efficient career transition to nursing from a non-nursing field, helpful information on how to become a nurse in Missouri is a great place to begin your journey.

There is a shortage of mental health providers in Missouri, especially PMHNPs. Data from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) revealed that as of May 2023, every county in Missouri is a health professional shortage area for mental health, except for St. Louis county and city, which are partial shortage areas.

Employment and salary statistics as of May 2022 for nurse practitioners (NPs) indicate that those working in mental health and substance abuse facilities remain among the top-paying industries. A closer look at salary and employment information reveals:

  • The annual mean wage for NPs working in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals was approximately $134,540 ($64.69 hourly)
  • The annual mean wage for NPs inclusive of specialties other than psychiatric mental health in Missouri was approximately $113,180 ($54.41 hourly)
  • Missouri ranked fifth as a state with the highest concentration of NP jobs after Tennessee, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and Vermont

A prerequisite to becoming a PMHNP is to become a licensed registered nurse (RN) through completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. Hybrid Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) programs include online coursework and curricula designed specifically to leverage an existing non-nursing bachelor’s degree to accelerate your career transition.

Learn more about Rockhurst University's Online PMHNP Program

Take Your Nursing Career to the Next Level with Rockhurst’s MSN-PMHNP Program

Whether you are interested in entering the nursing field or you are an established nurse ready to progress into an advanced practice role, the online nursing programs at Rockhurst University can prepare you with a high-quality education for your future. The online ABSN program is an initial step for those looking to fast-track their path to becoming an RN with a bachelor’s degree required for continued education toward the PMHNP role.

RNs who are ready for a leadership role in mental health advocacy can step into Rockhurst’s online MSN-PMHNP program and receive:

  • Online coursework with affordable, competitive tuition rates
  • Complementary clinical placement services for completion of in-person clinical hours
  • Part-time and full-time options for degree completion in as little as two years
  • Experience in high-fidelity and low-fidelity simulation with campus and virtual immersion opportunities to grow confidence in clinical skills

Wherever you are in your nursing journey, you can learn from active, experienced nursing faculty in Rockhurst’s CCNE-accredited programs and help improve mental health in Missouri. Visit the online nursing programs page and download your program guide today.


About Rockhurst University's Online Programs

In the heart of Kansas City since 1910, Rockhurst University is dedicated to learning, leadership and service in the Jesuit tradition, and today is the #1 Regional University in Kansas City (2021 U.S. News and World Report).

Rockhurst University’s online programs are delivered by the highly reputable Saint Luke’s ™ College of Nursing and Health Sciences and the School of Education. As an educational leader serving exceptional students in the field of health care and education, we are committed to preparing the workforce of tomorrow with our unique programs designed to prepare graduates to meet the needs of diverse populations and work in various organizations.

To learn more about our highly competitive online programs, please visit onlinedegrees.rockhurst.edu, or read more here: