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U.S. Mental Illness Rates Are Persistently High

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Four percent of Americans had thoughts of suicide in the past year.

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JL A (281)
Monday December 24, 2012, 12:27 pm

U.S. Mental Illness Rates Are Persistently High
Four percent of Americans had thoughts of suicide in the past year.
By Shari Roan
December 20, 2012
U.S. Mental Illness Rates Are Persistently High

Twenty percent of American adults say they had a mental health condition in the past year. (Photo: Simone Becchetti/Getty Images)

Twenty percent of American adults—more than 45 million—experienced a mental illness in the past year, according to new data from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The numbers, which are from a 2011 survey, show no changes in the persistence of mental illness in the country.

Not surprisingly, women reported more mental illness than men. But contrary to the idea that older people are most likely to become depressed, the survey found the highest rate of psychological problems in people ages 18 to 25.

The survey of 65,750 people found almost 30 percent of young adults reported mental illness compared to about 14 percent among people ages 50 and older.

MORE: Depression and the Recession: UK Suicides Rose With Economic Downturn
Take Action! Advocate for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

“Although mental illness remains a serious public health issue, increasingly we know that people who experience it can be successfully treated and can live full, productive lives,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “Like other medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, the key to recovery is identifying the problem and taking active measures to treat it as soon as possible.”

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health is the primary source of statistical information on the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco in the United States. The survey involves face-to-face interviews at the respondent's place of residence.

The survey also found that 1.5 million adults—5 percent of the adult population—had serious mental illness in the past year. Serious mental illness is defined as mental illness that resulted in major functional impairment, which substantially interfered with or limited one or more key life activities. This can include disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or major depression.

Almost 4 percent of people surveyed—which translates to an estimated 8.5 million Americans—said they had serious thoughts of suicide, and about one-quarter of those people said they had made suicide plans. Of the group that made plans, half attempted suicide.

Drug use and mental illness often coexist, the report found. Adults who were mentally ill in the past year were more than three times as likely to have met the criteria for substance dependence or abuse in that period than those who had not experienced mental illness in the past year (17.5 percent versus 5.8 percent).

Those who were seriously mentally ill in the last year were even more likely to have had substance dependence or abuse. And majorly depressed people who were ages 12 to 17 were more than twice as likely to have used illicit drugs. A major depressive episode is defined as a period of at least two weeks when a person experiences a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities.

While almost 60 percent of people reporting serious mental illness said they had received treatment in the past year, only 38 percent of people with less-severe illness were treated.

Federal public-health experts in recent years have been calling attention to the National Suicide Prevention Line (1-800-273-TALK (8255) and the companion website. The 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.

What can be done to extend treatment for mental health disorders to more people? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Related Stories on TakePart:

• Five Years Out of Juvenile Detention, Depression, Addiction Linger

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• PeaceLove Studios: Mental Illness Healed Through Art

Shari Roan is an award-winning health writer based in Southern California. She is the author of three books on health and science subjects.

Roger G (154)
Monday December 24, 2012, 12:29 pm
noted, thanks !

JL A (281)
Monday December 24, 2012, 1:06 pm
You are welcome Roger!

Karen R (87)
Monday December 24, 2012, 1:52 pm
Be there for your loved ones, times are hard! We need each other!

JL A (281)
Monday December 24, 2012, 1:58 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Karen because you have done so within the last week.

Rose Becke (141)
Monday December 24, 2012, 4:57 pm
so true Karen

Mental health is very important

JL A (281)
Monday December 24, 2012, 5:00 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Rose because you have done so within the last week

John C (75)
Monday December 24, 2012, 6:04 pm
The issue of suicide is one of balance.
Depression in my eyes is a natural part of living. Without it we would not be driven "within" to find our part in the answers to our problems in life. Its when we get "stuck" that makes life for all things difficult.

Conservatives have long maintained that Switzerland, and Israel were the prime examples of a fully armed society. Their "models" are changing too. Israelis are no longer allowed to carry their weapons home. Nor are the Swiss. As a result the suicide rates have dropped.

John C (75)
Monday December 24, 2012, 6:57 pm
Balance is an easy thing to achieve. Hard to keep.
Who makes these judgements? The people we empower.
Don't do their jobs for them.
George Washington said at the "Farewell Address' that "Government is a dubious servant, and a fearful master."
That is why there is a second amendment. Not for hunting rights which I would quickly abolish to preserve the things we have. Its the things we are losing that will be so hard fought for to get back. Yes it is so true that the founders used muskets. How could they see where we would be today?
Our species has become so efficient at destroying all forms of life, they need no instructor. What they need is a sense of responsibility. Mind my words here. The "R" word has broken many a soul from sucking eggs. Use it.

JL A (281)
Monday December 24, 2012, 7:03 pm
Thanks for providing the illuminating policy information for Switzerland and Israel John and related suicide rate data.

Judith Green (8)
Monday December 24, 2012, 7:42 pm

JL A (281)
Monday December 24, 2012, 9:01 pm
Responsibility, both individual and civic, and accountability seem to be missing all too often I agree John. It does indeed behoove us to remember these ourselves and to remind others, including public servants, of such duties.You cannot currently send a star to John because you have done so within the last week.

Giana P (398)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 2:15 am
There surly are enough reasons to become depressed every day, but the sun is still shining so, things could be worse. People are lonely, confined, and do not do what they really want to, things that make them feel happy and self appreciative.

Kath P (9)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 3:37 am
Too much pressure from all sides will eventually cause even the most stoic of people to exhibit signs of mental exhaustion (illness).

cecily w (0)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 4:13 am
Are you too chubby (or too thin)? Do you drink alcohol (or do you abstain)? Do you smoke? Is your house or apartment a little messy at times (or is it cold and sterile)? Do you drive a car without passengers in it (or do you have to cope with public transit)? Do you tend toward the liberal end of the political spectrum (or the conservative)? I could go on, but, mercifully, I won't. No matter what you answered to any of these questions, you have been bashed by the press, in the social media, or by complete strangers within the past 30 days.

Faye Swan (23)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 5:01 am
I so agree with Karen! Donate or volunteer but one very important thing we can all do is be there for our friends, family and neighbours.

Patricia H. (440)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 5:03 am
More should be done on this issue

paul m (93)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 5:42 am


JL A (281)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 6:28 am
Excellent reminders Giana, Kath and Cecily.You cannot currently send a star to Giana because you have done so within the last week.You cannot currently send a star to Kath because you have done so within the last week.You cannot currently send a star to cecily because you have done so within the last week.
I agree Faye and Patricia.You cannot currently send a star to Faye because you have done so within the last week.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 6:49 am

. (0)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 9:04 am
What a disturbing article. In Denmark, and the Netherlands suicide is the leading cause of death of people between 15-35. Mental illness is on the rise in England.
In this country, one in 15 people are taking some sort of anti-depressant drug. The causes used to be loneliness, physical disability, (or both in the case of senior citizens). This is not the case anymore.

JL A (281)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 9:09 am
It is disturbing indeed Allan--a major unmet health care need in this country; other countries do a better job with their universal health care. You cannot currently send a star to Allan because you have done so within the last week.

Kenneth L (314)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 12:33 pm
“After spending 20 plus years working to wake up the world to the most extreme dangers of antidepressants this last shooting (Newtown) makes me angry at a society that continues to allow prescription medications on the market that have listed side effects of both homicidal & suicidal ideation (thoughts) in their warnings. WHY is that acceptable when we have documented involvement of antidepressants in 67 cases of school shootings in our database of cases at ? Although these drugs are most similar in action to PCP (Angel Dust) they continue to be widely prescribed and are the most commonly prescribed drugs for Aspergers which this shooter was diagnosed with.”
Dr. Ann Blake Tracy, Psychologist

"So what causes the suicides (of schizophrenics)? The evidence points to the antipsychotics (medication).. In placebo controlled double blind trials these drugs show an excess of suicides and suicidal acts with drugs like Zyprexa having the highest suicide and suicidal act rate in clinical trial history"
Dr. David Healy, Psychiatrist

"Some of the side-effects (of psychiatric drugs) that have become a concern lately are suicide, increased risk of suicide, increased risk of homicide... "
Dr. Matt Irwin, M.D.

"So here we have hostility, paranoia, agitation, combined with the akathisia, which is the sense that I've got to do something, and you can see how these can all add up to irrational murders. The string of school shootings that we have seen is strictly a phenomena that coincides with the massive use of antidepressant drugs over the past 15 to 20 years"
Dr. Moira Dolan, M.D.

M B (62)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 1:09 pm
Kenneth is so right !! Mental health, gun laws.....they both need to get fixed. If people were mentally healthy, they wouldn't "need" medication or guns.Words are much more worth than all that anti depressiva. There is something wrong when you can get access so easily of either pills or guns. I think it's related; the patient and the killer...
We need a more meaningful life.

JL A (281)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 4:23 pm
Thank you Kenneth for these health warnings and reminders. Many of the older antidepressants were approved without testing the safety for special populations like adolescents and the elderly. Some may not have been tested for each gender, either. Although they all call for monitoring for safe use (e.g., diabetes, liver and kidney), side effects (including the depression, agitation, etc.) and some say blood level monitoring is needed because taking same time each day more important than most drugs, the treatment population are people that have a harder time initiating contact for side effects and being accurate on taking routinely independently--yet the system knowingly delegates those responsibilities to them instead of having routine visits with Q&A to ensure dangerous side effects are not happening.You cannot currently send a star to Kenneth because you have done so within the last week.

Phyllis P (237)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 4:27 pm
Mental illness has been around, like forever. But never, ever have you heard of the disproportionant number of shootings related to "mental illness" issuess. So what happened since the 40's or 50's to now? Yes in decades past you have the occasionally "bizarre, I can't believe that happened" type of crime. I'll tell you what happened, two things, in my book. One we don't have God or whoever you wish to worship in our lives to keep us centered and to appreciate life and our fellow man. Second, drugs. Just like Kenneth said. Doctors give prescriptions at the drop of a hat. Prescriptions with dangerous and serious side effects. But who cares right? We have the drug companies making money, and we have the medical profession making money. So who gets to the accountable? The mentally ill person, who can't even be accountable for themselves.

JL A (281)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 6:32 pm
Thank you Phyllis by reminding us to consider historical patterns, contrasts and context. One key factor omitted is that in the 40's and 50's parents were expected to send their children with such problems to institutions, which proved to be inhumane and led to closures with political promises to create and fund community alternatives--neither of which are fully done yet. So those who were discharged are often living without care and serving time, often without appropriate treatment or medication monitoring, in the criminal justice system.

Gloria picchetti (304)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 7:06 pm
Why is anyone surprised? This is the land of mild and honey. Not really. This is the land of BLM wild horse round ups where wonderful creatures flee in terror of their lives. Where legs and necks are broken in terror as mares and foals and stallions watch family die in pain. I haven't mentioned wolves, bob cats, bears, otters, and all fauna perish and do you want to talk about poor people?
Really it's not depression it's the let the wealthy have anything they want as long as the rest of us drop dead. That is not drepression. It's reality in the good old USA.

JL A (281)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 7:24 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Gloria because you have done so within the last week.

Lloyd H (46)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 11:10 pm
I am not sure just how much of this I am willing to believe without more than a few caveats. First off, as Kenneth says, how much of the rate is due to insane allowance of prescription drug pushing in all medias, which to be effective must convince people that they are mentally ill and provide them with all of the symptoms necessary to qualify for diagnosis and high profit prescriptions. There is also the problem that treatment is also as high profit as the drugs. And then there is the broadening of the definitions of mental illness in to broad spectrum categories, much the same as has been done with Autism so that nearly every child that is not perfectly attentive or does not learn on the standard curve now falls in to the Autistic Spectrum some where at some time. And 12-17 year olds are in the midst of major hormonal changes that age going to qualify all of them at one time or another. And the entire thing ignores the plain and simple fact that being in a major economic disaster/recovery is not going to promote normal mental attitudes in the 99% of the US population that does not have the wealth ready at hand to make their life styles immune but to actually prosper.

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 7:37 am
Lloyd, thank you for identifying the biases of several of the voices who will be involved in any mental health reform efforts and the context that would increase the prevalence of non-permanent diagnoses related to anxiety and depressive symptoms. I disagree that anything near as many end up on the ASD spectrum since criteria required for such diagnoses mandate so many symptoms to be present--but what you say may be true for Attention Deficit Disorders and/or Hyperactivity (conditions that often co-exist with ASD).

Kenneth L (314)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 8:08 am
Right on Lloyd H.
"DSM 4 (the current book of Psychiatry that lists all 374 of their mental disorders) gave autism purchase by introducing a milder form that is close to the extremely populous boundary of normality. Then autism took flight on the wings of definitional diffusion, internet contagion, financial incentive, and naďve interpretation of epidemiological results.
The autism “epidemic” is set to spread further starting in May 2013, when the next revision of the diagnostic manual (DSM 5) will be published. The DSM 5 definition of an “autistic spectrum” will cast an even wider net, capturing many people now considered to be normal or to have another disorder"
Dr. Allen Frances, past chairman of the Task Force for DSM4, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry

"The ('mental disorder') labels in the DSM-5 (like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals that came before it) have really become little more than the road map by which psychiatrists chase both insurance reimbursement and applause from special interest groups who lobby—sometimes very effectively—for one diagnosis to be included, or another to be removed"
Dr. Keith Ablow, Psychiatrist.

"Unlike medical diagnoses that convey a probable cause, appropriate treatment, and likely prognosis, the disorders listed in the DSM4 are terms arrived at by peer concensus"
Dr. Tana Dineen, Psychologist

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 10:03 am
Thanks for additional information about diagnostics Kenneth. All you provide helps explain why the time from WHO approval to most countries adopting diagnostic manuals updates is far slower for DSM vs. ICD and why some countries never adopt some DSM updates.

Hartson Doak (39)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 3:04 pm
Well of course it is. Reagan closed down all the mental health facilities and turned the patient out onto the street. This was to save the Federal Government money to support the military. The military send home all these PTSD soldiers and then does not help them either. Of course are mentally ill are always high in number.

Aaron Bouchard (158)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 7:31 pm
Noted thanks

Gloria H (88)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 7:43 pm
Younger people haven't lived long enough to know there is always another lover, job, whatever to come along in time and they are not "losers" and nor not worthy to live.
Given enough stress, anyone could flip. The parents, children of the recent shootings are going to go through alot of mental stress/trauma. Some will make it through ok, and some will not.
We live in crazy times of war, nuclear threat, loss of freedoms through government paranoia. Perhaps worse stress than in times of Plagues when a sneeze in the morning could be a sign of death at night.
We need to change priorities. Greed/$$$ will be the end of our species and planet. Pharma and government is not the answer. We need to start looking past "me-ism" and start caring for each other. It starts at home, at school in the workplace, on the street. In word and deed.

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 8:51 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Hartson because you have done so within the last week.
You are welcome Aaron.
I applaud your sentiments Gloria, yet suspect that we may need more to heal the individuals and society than you mention.You cannot currently send a star to Gloria because you have done so within the last week.

Past Member (0)
Thursday December 27, 2012, 5:05 am
mental illness is a lifelong struggle but advances are being made help is out there

Hayley C (7)
Thursday December 27, 2012, 8:10 am
Only 4%? Noted

Mary Donnelly (47)
Thursday December 27, 2012, 12:36 pm
Thanks again J.L. A.

Given the poverty, bad nutrition, and healthcare in the USA, these results are hardly surprising--except that they occur in the wealthiest country on the planet.

Julie E (405)
Thursday December 27, 2012, 1:39 pm
Thank you J.L.
A lot of good comments.

Janet R (38)
Thursday December 27, 2012, 3:15 pm
Seriously, only 4%? Look at what has been happening to the American people over the last 10 years, it would make any sane person crazy. A lot of pressure for many people to deal with and some just can't.

JL A (281)
Thursday December 27, 2012, 9:23 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Kristi because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Mary because you have done so within the last week.

jan b (5)
Friday December 28, 2012, 3:19 pm
There is so much stress if you have a job, so much stress if you don't have a job. THis country has so much stress because of finances....because of having dental problems or health problems and lving with pain. Children don't have parents home anymore--two parents have to work....and the streets are bringing up our children which adds more stress to the family home when they are getting in trouble.
What does it really mean to be the richest country in the world....or the greatest anything.....not much to the majority of people these days.

JL A (281)
Friday December 28, 2012, 4:37 pm
Janice, you seem to have given voice to why most other developed countries rate and rank higher on quality of life and happiness scales compared to the US--and why many countries do not view us as an example to emulate on so many things now. You cannot currently send a star to janice because you have done so within the last week.

Glenville J Owen (0)
Friday December 28, 2012, 4:58 pm
One morning a few years ago my eldest brother suffered a sudden and severe depression and begged me to help him. It was as if he was in a big black hole that he couldn't climb his way out of. His wife had died suddenly a few weeks previously and since then he had depended on whiskey and large amounts of diazipan....I think that's what they were blot out the memory of his loss.
The whiskey, drugs and his powerful negative thoughts evetualy took their toll on him, and he begged me to take him to the local hospital where he thought he'd be given an injection of something to take away his pain and put him right. To placify him and offer him some hope, even though I knew there was no magic drug that would cure him, I phoned the hospital and later, his GP, who after a long chat gave me the phone number of a local charity that deals with people with depresive illnesses, and when contacted, the charity promised to send someone to visit my brother later that day.
By now I could see some improvement in my brother who had been listening intently to my phone conversations, and I eventually convinced him there was no magic drug that would cure him, the cure was within his own mind. He had to believe that he would get better and it would be so, but he had to believe it without doubt, and so, while we chatted about hopful things and our past lives together, his mind switched from one of No Hope to one of Hope.
By the time the woman from the local charity arrived he had improved greatly and was boosted some more by the friendly explanation of his illness and advise the woman gave him, such as the importance of drinking plenty of water throughout the day instead of liquer, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, and getting plenty of rest. His recovery was ammazing to watch and as far as I'm aware he never took another diazepan again, although he did have a few drinks from time to time up until his death earlier this year from a lung disease.

JL A (281)
Friday December 28, 2012, 5:25 pm
Thank you Glenville for sharing your story of how a person can make a difference.

Mitchell D (87)
Friday December 28, 2012, 5:45 pm
A random survey, done in New York City, some years ago, by a group of M.H. professionals, covering some several hundred people, as i recall it, found that 80% of them had then current situations which qualified as mental health problems of one sort or another.
Some other large population, I think 60-80% of people with mental health issues, also use drugs as a way of self-medicating.


JL A (281)
Friday December 28, 2012, 5:59 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Mitchell because you have done so within the last week.

Jane Mckenzie (20)
Friday December 28, 2012, 7:46 pm

JL A (281)
Friday December 28, 2012, 7:48 pm
Yes Jane, it begs many questions.

paul m (93)
Saturday December 29, 2012, 6:27 am


reft h (66)
Saturday December 29, 2012, 11:47 pm
There are a lot of factors involved. One also needs to look at regional stats and cultural histories. The following is from a report on suicide among aboriginal people in Canada:
"For Aboriginal people, suicide is an affliction of the young. From the ages of 10 to
29, Aboriginal youth on reserves are 5 to 6 times more likely to die of suicide than their peers in the general
population. Over a third of all deaths among Aboriginal youth are attributable to suicide. Although the
gender difference is smaller than among the non-Aboriginal population, males are more likely to die by
suicide, while females make attempts more often."

Kenneth L (314)
Sunday December 30, 2012, 2:27 am
I agree with June "There are a lot of factors involved". Regarding suicide, anyone who thinks of or attempts suicide is usually officially called 'mentally ill' or has a 'mental disorder' or a 'mental disease' in the 'mental health services' system----yet it's obvious that it could be simply due to horrible living conditions or seemingly overwhelming external influences, especially in the case of aboriginals who have huge cultural differences with 'white' society etc.
That is the problem that society simply thinks is solved by throwing everyone into a 'mental health services' system. It just labels people and gives them more psychiatric drugs since 'mental health' is mainly run by the single field of Psychiatry..

Past Member (0)
Sunday December 30, 2012, 3:56 am
Besides money, please pay attention to our mind

Melania P (122)
Wednesday January 2, 2013, 7:27 pm
Thanks, such a shame but I am not surprised, so much junk food, videogames, destruction of the environment..... And the list goes on!

JL A (281)
Sunday January 6, 2013, 3:49 pm
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