Nearly one fifth of all adults in the United States say they had a mental illness during the preceding 12 months. Of serious concern is that only 37% got any professional medical help, according to a new report issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The report also revealed that there are 4.4 million Americans with a "serious mental health illness" who are walking around untreated.

The authors revealed that:
  • 19.9% of the people surveyed said they had had a mental illness during the twelve months before their interview
  • 4.8% reported having a serious mental health illness during the same time frame; nationally, this totals 11 million people
A serious mental illness is one that makes at least one major activity in life extremely difficult or impossible to do, according to SAMHSA.

Of the 8.4 million adult Americans who thought seriously about committing suicide during the preceding twelve months, 2.2 million went further and actually made some plans, and one million attempted suicide, the report informs.

Approximately 19% of those with a mental illness were also found to have a substance abuse disorder. 25.7% of individuals with a serious mental illness also have a substance abuse disorder.

Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., who works in SAMHSA, said:
    "Too many Americans are not getting the help they need and opportunities to prevent and intervene early are being missed. The consequences for individuals, families and communities can be devastating. If left untreated mental illnesses can result in disability, substance abuse, suicides, lost productivity, and family discord. Through health care reform and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act we can help far more people get needed treatment for behavioral health problems."
Mental illness is more common among people who are unemployed (27%) compared to those in a full time occupation (17.1%). The authors also found that mental illness among females (23.8%) is significantly more common than males (15.6%).

People with severe mental illness symptoms are more likely to be young adults up to 25 years of age (30% of those with severe symptoms) compared to people aged 50+ (13.7%).

62.1% of those with a mental illness did not receive any medical help, compared to 39.8% of those with severe symptoms who also didn't.

"Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings"

Written by Edward Pritchard