A Snapshot of Mental Health in the USA Today

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At any given time, millions in the U.S. are affected by problems with mental health. To help each other overcome this virtually invisible hurdle, everyone must do their part in advancing mental health research. One of the first and most meaningful steps one can take to help out is to build awareness within themselves and the people around them.

This article describes the current mental health landscape of the country through statistics. These numbers will hopefully paint a more detailed picture of how mental health affects Americans physically, socially, and even financially.

The statistics here are mostly based on those gathered by the National Alliance on Mental Health from other organizations, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Centers for Disease Control or CDC, and the U.S. Department of Justice. NAMI has a lot of insightful and informative articles on their website.

Message in a Bottle

In 1979, the English band The Police released the song, Message in a Bottle. It described a lost ‘castaway’ seeking belongingness in the middle of a lonely sea. The castaway then sent out a message: an SOS contained in a bottle. Months passed, and nothing happened. About a year after the first message was sent out, the castaway found ‘a hundred billion bottles’ with messages similar to his own. He then discovered that he wasn’t alone in being alone.

Aside from being aware of one’s mental health issues, it’s also essential to learn that they are not alone in this experience. A staggering 19.1 percent of American adults reportedly experienced mental illness in 2018. This roughly translates into 47.6 million people. This means that one in every five adults in the U.S. has experienced mental health issues that year.

Studies also found that 11.4 million of that 47.6 million experienced severe mental illness in the same year. Also, 3.7 percent or 9.2 million adults experienced a co-occurring substance use disorder and mental illness.

In 2016, 7.7 million American youths aged 6-17 experienced one form of mental health disorder. This represents 16.5 percent of all kids in that age range.

Help Matters

So what is being done to address this widespread issue? Fortunately, mental health awareness and subsequent help have been on the rise in recent years. However, seeking treatment is still not as common as ideal.

In 2018, only 43.3 percent of the 47.6 million Americans who reportedly experienced mental illness received treatment. Of the 11.4 million of those who experienced severe mental illness, 64.1 percent received treatment.

A little more than half, or 50.6 percent of American youths with mental health disorders in 2016 received treatment. Although this number is a huge improvement from decades past, it’s still not as high as it should be. For a rough comparison, in 1986, according to this study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, less than two percent of adolescents in the country received any mental health service.

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Real-world Impacts

The numbers mentioned above aren’t just statistics. They have real-world consequences felt by people in many ways.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 7.1 percent or 17.3 million American adults experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2017. This number is even higher when those aged between 18 and 25 are considered.

The sad reality is that those with depression have a 40 percent higher risk of developing metabolic diseases and cardiovascular issues than the general population. This number rises for people who have serious mental illnesses.

The rate of unemployment is also higher for people with mental illness. High school students showing symptoms of depression are also twice as likely to drop out of school compared to others.

These all translate to significant social and economic impacts. Not to mention the physical and emotional strain this brings, not only to patients but to their caregivers as well.

Reaching Out

Understanding the gravity and the extent of these mental health issues can help compel people into action. Reaching out to friends and family members who might be suffering their mental health battles can help significantly.

Mental health research is also an excellent area to extend help. Those experiencing mental illnesses can help themselves by learning more about their condition and how to best deal with it. They can also help each other by becoming patient volunteers in research studies.

With the right education and the willingness to help, the mental health landscape in the U.S. is bound to improve in the coming years.


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