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The State of Mental Health In America

mental health image of mental illness vs wholeness

There’s a great deal of conversation about the state of mental health in America. I am not one for citing too many statistics since we are often unsure of how they were gathered. However, I think it’s helpful to get a gauge for some understanding of what statistical data we have been able to gather. As I looked at the website of Mental Health America here is what they have been able to determine as the key findings of mental health in our country in 2023.

2023 Key Findings

  • In 2019-2020, 20.78% of adults were experiencing a mental illness. That is equivalent to over 50 million Americans.
  • The vast majority of individuals with a substance use disorder in the U.S. are not receiving treatment. 15.35% of adults had a substance use disorder in the past year. Of them, 93.5% did not receive any form of treatment.
  • Millions of adults in the U.S. experience serious thoughts of suicide, with the highest rate among multiracial individuals. The percentage of adults reporting serious thoughts of suicide is 4.84%, totaling over 12.1 million individuals. 11% of adults who identified with two or more races reported serious thoughts of suicide in 2020 – 6% higher than the average among all adults.
  • Over 1 in 10 youth in the U.S. are experiencing depression that is severely impairing their ability to function at school or work, at home, with family, or in their social life. 16.39% of youth (age 12-17) report suffering from at least one major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year. 11.5% of youth (over 2.7 million youth) are experiencing severe major depression.
  • Over half (54.7%) of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment, totaling over 28 million individuals. Even in Montana (ranked #1), over 4 in 10 adults with a mental illness did not receive care.
  • Almost a third (28.2%) of all adults with a mental illness reported that they were not able to receive the treatment they needed. 42% of adults with AMI reported they were unable to receive necessary care because they could not afford it.
  • 10.8% (over 5.5 million) of adults with a mental illness are uninsured. Hispanic adults with AMI were least likely to have health insurance, with 19% reporting they were not covered by insurance.
  • 6.34% of youth in the U.S. reported a substance use disorder in the past year. That is equivalent to over 1.5 million youth in the U.S. who meet the criteria for an illicit drug or alcohol use disorder.
  • 22.87% of adults who report experiencing 14 or more mentally unhealthy days each month were not able to see a doctor due to costs. In Georgia (ranked 51), over one-third of adults experiencing frequent mental distress are unable to afford a doctor’s visit.
  • 59.8% of youth with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment. Asian youth with major depression were least likely to receive specialty mental health care, with 78% reporting they did not receive mental health services in the past year. In South Carolina, the lowest ranking state, nearly 8 in 10 youth with depression do not receive care.
  • Nationally, only 28% of youth with severe depression receive some consistent treatment (7-25+ visits in a year).  Most (57.3%) youth with severe depression do not receive any care.
  • Nationally, 1 in 10 youth who are covered under private insurance do not have coverage for mental or emotional difficulties – totaling over 1.2 million youth. In Arkansas (ranked 51), nearly one-quarter of youth with private insurance do not have coverage for mental health care.
  • Only .718 percent of students are identified with emotional disturbance for an individualized education program (IEP). IEPs, with sufficient resources for schools and teachers, are critical for ensuring that youth with disabilities can receive the individualized services, supports, and accommodations to succeed in a school setting.
  • In the U.S., there are an estimated 350 individuals for every one mental health provider. However, these figures may actually be an overestimate of active mental health professionals, as it may include providers who are no longer practicing or accepting new patients.

The most alarming reality of these findings is the number of individuals who do not or are unable to get treatment.  It’s no wonder we are struggling in our schools, families and community with an epidemic of mental health diagnoses that have little or no intervention strategies available to those who are struggling. It is tragic that our treatment programs have fallen so far below the need.

Yet, there appears to be few efforts that are substantial enough to change this trajectory in the near future. We will reap consequences of this for years to come if we do not provide more opportunities for the care of those in our communities who have been identified with mental health deficits.

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