Just got back from Science Online 2012 which was an awesome experience. A big hat tip to all my fellow science bloggers and online science mavens. More on that later. In the meantime:
A new report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicated that the majority of Americans experiencing some form of mental disorder do not seek professional help. According to the SAMHSA report, while 20% of American adults (45.9 million) experienced some form of mental illness in 2010, only 39.2% received some form of treatment. The report is based on an annual survey of 67,500 people across the United States stratified according to age and the results appear almost identical to reports from previous years. For the purpose of the study, mental illness is defined as a diagnosable condition meeting diagnostic critera as laid out in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR). Of the study participants, the rate of mental illness was more than twice as high among participants aged 18 to 25 than those participants 50 years or older (29.9 vs 14.3 per cent). Overall, adult women were far more likely than men to have experienced mental illness in the last year (23 per cent vs. 16.8 per cent). Twenty per cent of the study participants reporting some form of mental illness also met criteria for substance abuse.
For the participants in the study, 3.8 per cent of women and 3.7 per cent of men reported serious thoughts of suicide in the past year with adults in the 18 to 25 year age range being the highest risk for suicidal thoughts. The results also showed that 1.1 million adults (0.5 per cent of all Americans) attempted suicide or made suicide plans in the past year. More than 8.7 million adults had serious thoughts of committing suicide. Poverty and employment status appeared to be a significant factor with 27.8 per cent of Americans reporting some form of mental illness in 2010 being unemployed and 22.7 per cent being part-time employees. Only 16.7 per cent of study participants reporting mental illness were fully employed. A significant percentage of study participants fell at or below the federal poverty level (29.5 per cent).
Serious mental illness was defined in the study as meeting DSM-IV-TR criteria with a severe functional impairment interfering with major life activities. Based on findings, there are an estimated 11.4 million American adults with serious mental illness and the overall figures appear unchanged from the 2009 survey. Of those study participants who sought treatment for mental illness, 60.7 reported seeing a family doctor while 33 per cent reported seeing a psychiatrist or psychotherapist. In terms of type of treatment, 46.6 per cent received psychiatric medication and/or talked to a medical doctor.
The study also examined mental health patterns in youths aged twelve to seventeen and found that the prevalence rate for a major depressive episode in 2010 was 8 per cent (suggesting an estimated 1.9 million youths across the United States). Of these youths, 19.9 per cent had a substance use disorder in the past year while only 6.1 per cent of youths without a major depressive episode reported substance abuse. Depressed youths were also more likely to be heavy alcohol abusers and daily cigarette smokers than non-depressed youths.
The report also noted that treatment cost remains the primary barrier for seeking treatment for mental health problems. Use of mental health services was highest among adults receiving Medicaid or other government health coverage (14.9 per cent) as opposed to adults with private health insurance (13.4 per cent). Only 9.2 per cent of adults without medical coverage sought mental health services. Between 2002 and 2010, percentage of adults using outpatient services declined from 7.4 to 6.6 per cent while percentage using prescription medication rose from 10.5 to 11.6 per cent.
For those adults who experienced some form of mental illness but did receive treatment, the primary reason for not seeking treatment was cost (43.7 per cent) while an additional 32.2 felt that they could handle the problem without treatment. Other reasons for not seeking treatment include not knowing where to go for services (20.5 per cent), not having the time (14.6 per cent), and not wanting others to find out (10.0 per cent). Concerns about confidentiality, insufficient health coverage, and potential stigma were also identified as factors stopping people from getting help.
In summarizing the 2010 study findings, the reports concludes that a strong link exists between mental illness and demographic factors such as age and low socioeconomic status. While study participants with severe mental illness were most likely to receive the help they need, a large percentage of Americans with mental illness are not receiving any form of treatment. Generalizing from the study results, an estimated 45.9 million American adults experienced some form of mental illness last year with only 40 per cent of them receiving some form of help for their problems. The most common barrier to seeking treatment appears to be financial cost. The trends noted in this report appear largely unchanged from the 2009 report and suggests that current initiatives for improving access to health care for Americans without coverage don't go far enough in allowing the most vulnerable segments of American society to receive the help that they need.