U.S. Mental Health Facts

  • Mental disorders are common in the United States, as 1 in 2 Americans has a diagnosable mental disorder each year, including 44 million adults and 13.7 million children. 

    Diagnosable!! That’s the part that should stand out the most. It didn’t say that 1 in 2 Americans gets diagnosed with a mental disorder. Instead, it claims that that is how many could be diagnosed.

    What’s the difference?

    The difference is that means many people aren’t seeking out care. It means that the need for care is sometimes noticed after the fact. After they present in the ER. After they are arrested. After they die by suicide.

  • Mental Disorders are as disabling as cancer or heart disease in terms of premature death and lost productivity.

    This is important to note because many people do not realize that mental disorders cause as much damage as physical disorders. There is a distinct difference in how we treat our people when they admit that they have cancer versus when they admit they have depression or bipolar disorder.

    We do not tell people who have suffered a stroke to be more optimistic…maybe then they’d regain control to the damaged parts in their bodies. We do not roll our eyes when someone who has a broken leg can’t keep up with us, yet there are some who sigh when their friend or family member doesn’t want to get out of bed due to debilitating depression.

  • Research has improved our ability to recognize, diagnose, and treat conditions effectively.

    This is great news, but we need to make sure we remove all barriers from access to these treatments. It doesn’t matter if we can treat people successfully if they do not have a facility nearby to help them. It doesn’t matter if we have the best doctors in the world who will treat mental illnesses or disorders if the people who need it most are uninsured (or cannot afford the premiums). It doesn’t matter if there are great counseling groups if someone is too embarrassed to admit he or she has a problem. It doesn’t matter if there’s a website dedicated to educating the public if the people who need the website refuse to do more than just pray harder and put pressure on their loved ones to refuse help from doctors.

  • 80 to 90 percent of mental disorders are treatable using medication and other therapies.

    Again, the key word here is “treatable.” Medications help. The memes on Facebook that say sunshine and exercise are all someone needs for mental health are not helpful. I understand the gestures. Sunshine helps, yes. Exercise and eating healthy helps, yes. But for many, medications are the only way for them to reach the normal chemistry levels that are already happening inside the brains of those who are writing these memes.

    An example I’d love to give is this: 

    Sometimes I get a headache. Most people would remind me to drink some water. I’m probably dehydrated. I drink a glass and I feel great. From then on, this is my go-to answer. Headache: Water.

    Enter Mary. She has a migraine. Even the dimmest lights have her closing her eyes. She feels nauseous. Her head is killing her. She wants to lie in bed until this terrible thing passes. She’s frustrated and upset and in pain.

    Enter me. I tell her, “Don’t worry about it. Just drink a big glass or water or two and it’ll help!”

    I’m sure hydrating will help in a way, but if she had medication that would alleviate all that suffering, why not take it? Migraines interrupt her day, they interrupt her ability to work, and they interrupt her ability to interact well with her family. Some medications can alleviate all that and more importantly, some medications can suppress how often she gets them.

  • Of those with a diagnosable mental disorder, fewer than half of adults get help. Only one-third of children get help.

    This is appalling. The stigma of asking for help must end. The stigma of counseling, medication, and being diagnosed with a mental disorder must stop soon. It’s literally killing people. It’s killing our children.

  • Suicide is the 8th leading cause of death in the U.S. 81 Americans die by suicide each day. Since 1980, suicide has doubled among young black males in America. 80 to 90 percent of people who die by suicide are suffering from a diagnosable mental illness.

    81 Americans. 22 veterans.

    If we take the conservative estimates in account: 80 percent are suffering from a diagnosable mental illness and 80 percent of people diagnosed can be treated….that could potentially save over 50 lives a day.

    Imagine if we could start removing all of these barriers: access to mental health care, better insurance coverage for treatments and medication, ending the taboo of discussing mental illness, providing better access to people in rural areas, giving service members and veterans affordable and accessible mental health care before they ask for it and before it seems to be a need…imagine what could happen.


    Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Mental health fastats 2009.

        Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/mental.htm

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