There is no doubt that mental health issues are an epidemic that needs more attention in the U.S. One in five adults, 46.6 million Americans, experience a mental illness in any given year and one in 25 have a severe mental illness that interferes with one or more life activities. Of all measurable disorders, 1.1% live with schizophrenia, 2.6% live with bipolar disorder, 6.9% experienced a major depressive episode within the past year, and 18.1% of adults experienced an anxiety disorder. Among those with substance use disorders, more than half at 50.5% had a co-occurring condition.
Various populations are affected by mental illness in differing ways. For example, American children from the ages of 8 to 15 have a 13% chance of developing a mental disorder. Approximately, one in five youth, 13 to 18 years old, will experience a severe mental health disorder at some point in their lives. Not only that, but 70% of youths in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental health condition, and 20% of those youths have a severe disorder. In the general youth population, half of all chronic mental illnesses begin as young as 14, and three quarters by age 24. Mental illnesses are also prevalent in those with low income, as illustrated by a finding that an estimated 46% of homeless adults living in shelters live with a severe mental illness and/or substance use disorder. Prevalence is also based on sex. Women have a higher chance of developing a mental illness at 22.3% compared to men at 13.1%. Racially, the prevalence of mental health disorders is highest in those who identify as two or more races at 28.6% with Asian Americans having the lowest incidence at 14.5%.
Unfortunately, despite these high prevalence findings with all groups, treatment disparities are a reality for many. Only 41% of adults in the U.S. received mental health services within the past year, with 62.9% of those with severe mental illnesses receiving treatment. Women were more likely to get treatment as opposed to men at 71.5% and 57.7% respectively. Young adults received less treatment than other adults at only 57.4% of the population. Not only are people unable to make it to treatment, but lack of access is a growing issue. There is a growing shortage of mental health professionals in rural areas since professionals are more likely to drift towards urban areas due to better pay and more opportunities. In fact, about 111 million people live in “mental health shortage” areas. The professionals that make up the highest shortage are psychiatrists, the lowest service ratio of any medical doctor. There are many reasons for this, including insurance reimbursements being lower for mental health professionals, psychiatrists not being in collaboration with insurance companies, lack of psychiatric training in medical schools, and the growing age of the workforce.
The effects of these incidences of mental illness and lack of treatment have been expansive. Severe mental illness costs the U.S. 193.2 billion dollars in lost earnings per year. Mood disorders are the third most common cause of hospitalizations of youth and adults from ages 18 to 44, due to lack of regular care. Those with mental illnesses have the highest high school dropout rate (37%) of any other disability group. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. with it being the second leading cause of death for 10 to 34-year-olds. There is also an increased risk of chronic medical conditions for Americans with severe mental illnesses. In fact, those with untreatable mental health disorders die an average of 25 years before others, largely because of treatable medical conditions. While these findings are eye-opening, it’s important to remember that many are fighting for equal treatment and care for those most affected. Programs have expanded tremendously, and more options\ are becoming available such as telepsychiatry, youth outreach, and affordable treatment. As much of an uphill battle, it appears, a brighter future for those most affected by mental illnesses is possible. For more information, please visit: http://inpathy.com/startswithus/.