World Mental Health Day is October 10. To mark this important day of global awareness, we took a look at how the United States stacks up when it comes to the prevalence of mental health issues and access to adequate care. The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is “Dignity in mental health.” Learn More
How Does the US Stack Up?
In recent years, mental health issues have risen to the forefront of our nation’s attention both on the legislative level and on an individual level. But with all of this forward progress, how do we stack up to other countries?
In the United States alone, over 42 million adults in the United States live with a mental health issue, according to a report published in 2014 by Mental Health America. Furthermore, the average American has almost a 50 percent chance of developing a mental health disorder over the course of his or her entire life, according to a study conducted by the World Health Organization in 2011. Over the course of 12 months, 27 percent of Americans develop a mental health disorder, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and substance abuse.
These numbers mean that the United States has the highest prevalence worldwide for mental health disorders.
In comparison, the 2011 WHO study found that the Ukraine, Colombia, New Zealand, Lebanon and France have the next highest rates of developing mental heath disorders – all falling between 18.9 percent and 21.4 percent within a 12-month period. Japan, China, Nigeria, and Israel have the lowest rates between 6 and 7.4 percent.
The study took their research one step further and broke down these numbers to examine different aspects of mental health – such as depression, substance abuse rates and suicide.
Over the period of one year, 3.8 percent of Americas will struggle with substance abuse. Almost 15 percent of Americans will suffer from substance abuse at some point in their lives. While these numbers are high when compared to other countries, they are not the highest – both South Africa and Ukraine have higher rates.
In 2013, the year with the most recent available data, more than 40,000 people committed suicide, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death. While those numbers seem high, we actually fall somewhere in the middle when compared to other countries.
Globally, one million people commit suicide each year, making suicide the 14th leading cause of death worldwide. The highest rates of suicide are in Eastern Europe, Russia and Japan, and the lowest are can be found in Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Israel.
When examining rates of depression around the world, it may seem as if a nation’s wealth would have an impact, but the issue is actually much more complicated. Globally, around 350 million people suffer from depression, and depression is the leader cause of disability worldwide according to a 2012 fact sheet published by the WHO.
In the United States, one in 10 people suffer from depression at one point in his or her life according to a Healthline infographic on mental health rates. This report also found that over 80 percent of people with symptoms of clinical depression are not receiving treatment.
Interestingly enough, the 2011 WHO report found that is there are lower rates of depression in less-developed countries. Ron Kessler, Ph.D., who spearheaded the report, believes that this may be because people in less-developed countries are struggling to meet their basic needs and therefore don’t have time or room for depression. In other words, when a person is struggling to survive, who has time for depression? On the other hand, this trend could be because depression stems from a person’s a subjective perception of what he or she lacks as compared to the people around them.
Access to Treatment and Care
Globally, access to treatment and resources largely depends on the nation’s wealth – and, more specifically, how much of that wealth is dedicated to mental health. A more recent study conducted by the WHO and published in July found that wealthier countries have a much higher number of mental hospital beds and admission rates than low-income countries. The report also found that high-income countries such as the United States, Singapore and Qatar, spend almost twice as much as low-income countries such as Haiti and Morocco on mental health. For all of these countries regardless of wealth, the majority of this spending goes to mental health hospitals. This disparity is partly due to how difficult it is for low-income countries to financially invest in these services.
However, while the United States’ access to resources seems decent compared to other countries, there still exists a lot of disparity within our own country. While over 40 percent of people with mental health disorders receive treatment (WHO), many more Americans can’t afford it. These are not the people who fall in the lowest socioeconomic class, but rather the second-lowest, where they are not eligible for Medicaid but still can’t afford expensive care.
An important trend that both the 2011 and the 21014 WHO report found is that the best treatment rates are seen in countries with universal healthcare systems. In these countries, the only thing standing in the way of treatment is perceived stigma, which varies from country to country.