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U.S. government report reveals prevalence of mental illness

Tuesday December 24, 2013
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Nearly one in five American adults, or 43.7 million people, experienced a diagnosable mental illness in 2012, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The results are consistent with 2011 findings, as is the finding that less than half (41%) of adults with a diagnosable mental illness received any mental health service in the past year. Among those who had serious mental illness — an estimated 9.6 million adults — 62.9% received treatment.

Among adults with mental illness who reported an unmet need for treatment, the top three reasons given for not receiving help were that they could not afford the cost, thought they could handle the problem without treatment or did not know where to go for services.

The findings also shed light on mental health issues among young people. According to the report, 2.2 million youth ages 12 to 17 (9.1% of this population) experienced a major depressive episode in 2012. These young people were more than three times as likely to have a substance use disorder (16%) as their counterparts who had not experienced a major depressive episode (5.1%).

Nine million American adults ages 18 and older (3.9%) had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year, according to the report; 2.7 million (1.1%) made suicide plans and 1.3 million (0.6%) attempted suicide.

According to SAMHSA, adults who experienced mental illness in the past year were three times more likely to have met the criteria for a substance use disorder than those who had not experienced mental illness in the past year (19.2% versus 6.4%). Those who had serious mental illness in the past year were even more likely to have had substance dependence or abuse (27.3%).

The new findings come from SAMHSA’s 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. In the survey, mental illness among adults ages 18 and older is defined as having had a diagnosable mental, behavioral or emotional disorder (excluding developmental and substance use disorders) in the past year based on criteria specified in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Serious mental illness is defined as mental illness that resulted in functional impairment, which substantially interfered with or limited one or more major life activities. A major depressive episode is defined as a period of at least two weeks when a person experienced a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities and had at least four of seven additional symptoms reflecting the criteria as described in the fourth edition of the DSM-IV.

Complete survey: www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2k12MH_FindingsandDetTables/Index.aspx

Resources

The Obama administration recently launched www.MentalHealth.gov to help people find easy-to-understand information about basic signs of mental health problems, how to talk about mental health and mental illness and how to locate help.

In addition, SAMHSA is announcing two grant funding opportunities to help improve mental health services for young people:

Planning Grants for Expansion of the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families Program. This grant program will provide $8 million in funding to assist states, political subdivisions, tribes or territories to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for improving, expanding and sustaining services provided through a system-of-care approach for children and youth with serious emotional disturbances and their families.

Implementation Cooperative Agreements for Expansion of the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and their Families Program. This grant program will provide $23 million in funding to enable states, political subdivisions, tribes or territories to improve behavioral health outcomes for children and youth with serious emotional disturbances and their families.

Those in crisis or knowing someone they believe may be at immediate risk of attempting suicide can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network, funded by SAMHSA, provides immediate free and confidential crisis round-the-clock counseling to anyone in need throughout the country, every day of the year.


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